College student creates talking, shooting ‘Portal’ turret

Portal Turret

Detailed within a recent YouTube video, Penn State University student Kevin Swanson has built an actual turret based off designs from Valve’s popular Portal series. Swanson built the turret as his final project for an Advanced Mechatronics class at Penn State. While the turret doesn’t shoot actual bullets, Swanson has built a system that fires soft, foam Nerf ammunition at a potential target from two mini USB rocket launchers. Using an IP webcam, a laser pointer and an Arduino microprocessor, the turret tracks specific colors and fires the Nerf launchers at that color. In Swanson’s example, the turret tracks the color pink and lights up any pink shirt with the laser pointer before firing off the rounds.

portal turret mockupUsing a technical computing language called MATLAB, Swanson programmed the turret to perform all these actions in addition to replicating the voice of the turret within the Portal series. The speaker on the turret plays phrases such as “Can you come over here?” and “Are you still there?” in order to attract a target to enter the camera’s line of sight.

Swanson is currently using an shaded acrylic frame to support the firing mechanism and it has been cut to replicate an identical framework to Valve’s design. While still incomplete, Swanson plans to add a white molding to the upper portion of the turret in order to accurately depict Valve’s styling. 

This isn’t the first time that a fan of the Portal series has gone to extremes to replicate something from Valve’s series, but it’s probably the most technically involved project. Earlier this year, a Portal fan redesigned his home office to replicate an office that may have been found in Aperture Laboratories. Prior to that, parents of a Portal fan redesigned their child’s bedroom to include companion cubes, portal panels and a GLaDOS camera.