Rick and Morty, a cartoon that started as a crass spoof of Back to the Future, is exploding in popularity. The adult themes mixed with ridiculous plot lines and silly jokes is an odd creole that speaks to many people’s brains. One of those people was Dave Dalton from Hammerspace, a makerspace in Kansas City, Missouri. Dalton put together this fantastic prop, a hand held device that opens interdimensional portals. Not only that, he does an incredibly convincing impersonation of the old scientist “Rick” in his demo video.
What really makes this prop stand out is the animation that happens when Dalton presses the button. This isn’t just a stationary projected image, but rather an animation of a portal opening. To pull this off, he crammed an entire projector into his portal gun. However, it got a little complicated when he began trying to trigger the animation.
I wasn’t able to directly control the projector without making a menu pop up in the projection and that spoiled the effect, so I opted to use an LCD shutter borrowed from some 3D glasses to obstruct the projection.
The projection of the portal is a rotating flash animation that is converted to MP4 format so it will play nice with the projector. The projector can store videos on a microSD card so I just set it to loop the portal animation and sound effects. When the shutter is blacked out, power is removed from the Adafruit mono audio amp that is connected to the headphone jack on the projector.
With no audio or projection the portal gun appears to be idle but the animation is always running.
Apparently, inside this portal gun, the animation of the portal opening is happening forever, in an endless cycle (this sounds like a plot to one of the shows!). You only see it when Dalton presses the button, which opens the “shutter.”
But how does Dalton know when to hit the button? Wouldn’t he end up opening the shutter in the middle of the animation most of the time? Some clever fiber optics help with that.
I added a small fiber optic in the projection path so I can monitor the timing of the projection and push the button in between loops of the animation.
When thinking of improvements for the future, Dalton points out that his existing system of using an LCD shutter could be improved on.
There is still a small amount of light leakage through the LCD, so my next revision will be to replace the LCD with a modified IR-CUT filter switcher from a security camera. This will give me a fast and totally opaque shutter that will fit in the housing just as easily as the LCD.
The whole thing runs on a LiPo battery and has an on-board charger from Adafruit. The projector has its own internal battery and charger as well.
The dome is an uninflated 2-liter bottle blank, commonly sold as “test tubes” for kids, and the crystal, housing, and button housing were all 3D printed.
If you recognize the name Hammerspace or Dave Dalton, it may be from the incredibly fun starship simulator that he and his crew showed off at the Kansas City Maker Faire a couple years ago. We can’t wait to see what he pulls off next!