A pair of amateur filmmakers have created an anachronistic pirate movie using the Deep Walls ShadowMosaic interactive installation installed at Technorama in Switzerland. Click below to watch the whole movie “Der Raub” created by Philipp Röthlin and Manuel Gübeli. Their movie is a new twist on the growing phenomenon of Machinima – creating movies from videogame graphics engines such as Doom, Quake, and Grand Theft Auto. In this case, the full-body input of social immersive media allows actors, costumes, and props to immediately become part of the performance.
Archive for August, 2009
Over the years we’ve created a number of interactive exhibits and experiences on health. Lately, interest seems to be increasing in this area, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Games Research initiative to study interactive health game experiences for measurable medical outcomes. Several of Snibbe Interactive’s recently released social immersive experiences are being used in science museums, hospitals, and biotechnology firms to encourage good health, to educate about health, and, perhaps most interestingly, to create interactive entertainment and videogames with health themes.
A few years ago several institutions approached us asking to adapt medical gait analysis systems to a science museum audience. The problems with adapting these devices to a general audience were numerous: the systems required a high maintenance treadmill; a trained staffer needed to supervise visitors, attach markers to visitors, and operate the system; less than ten visitors could experience the exhibit per hour; and the systems exceeded exhibit budgets.
Through innovative software techniques, we adapted our core computer vision and graphics technologies to create an interactive exhibit that brings advanced athletic sports science analysis to a mainstream audience. In Walkabout, a visitor simply walks, unencumbered, across a pathway. Using computer vision techinques, a camera analyzes each person’s gait, and then places a video of her walking in place onto a nearby screen. The person can compare her unique and distinctly recognizable silhouette with that of other recent visitors. Below each walking figure, Walkabout displays automatically measured statistics showing speed, stride length, and estimated energy output (a rough equivalent to calories).
What happened next was astonishing. People began to take part in the exhibit again and again, trying not to go faster, or to have bigger strides, but to use as much energy as possible. Visitors would return to the front of the walkway and then skip, crawl, walk backwards on their hands, and perform Monty Pythoneque “Silly Walks”. You can see some of these in the prototype video (above) that we shot in our San Francisco offices. When talking to Dr. Bridget Coughlin, Deputy Chief Curator and Curator of Human Health at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, she said that this exhibit was a kind of Holy Grail for health exhibits – an exhibit about health and exercise that itself encourages people to move. Counteracting the childhood obesity epidemic in the US has become an important goal of scientists, museums, and other institutions country-wide, so creating an experience that teaches about these problems, while simultaneously and immediately counteracting them has become a goal with some urgency. There are even new terms to describe these experiences: exergames, and exergaming, the first mainstream example being Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution arcade game.
With Walkabout’s social experience in physical space, it’s still possible to link back to the virtual social world that’s now dominating life online by adding a SocialShare station to share videos online and in social networks (at the end of the prototype video earlier in this post, you can see this in action). Using a video email system, visitors can send a movie of their walks via email, and post it to Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace. Now the experience is no longer constrained by the museums walls, and can travel worldwide virally and exponentially, continuing to send the same messages about exercise, sports science, and movement through social networks. Jeff Kennedy Associates added other creative add-on exercise games to Walkabout, where people can see how long their walk would take them to make a trip around a lake near the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; and another in which a visitor must correctly identify himself among several visitors.
In another less physical example, we faced the problem of creating a game about life expectancy. How could we make a fun, entertaining experience for kids about predicting the day you die? What we came up with, in cooperation with Thinc Design, was Health Choices – a tabletop interactive that goes beyond multi-touch to use six visitors’ full-body gestures for game-play and social interaction. The game goes through a series of fast-paced rounds in which retro “8 bit” icons emerge from a timer. Each round focuses on a different topic, such as exercise, education, or lifestyle. When a visitor pulls an icon into her bay, the result is immediate: increasing or decreasing a large number that indicates her new predicted lifespan. If the outcome of her choice is negative, she can push the icon away, or even into a neighbor’s bay, and choose another, like a game of musical chairs. At the end of the game, the person with the longest lifespan wins and can even enter her initials as a high score, just like an old game of Ms. Pac Man. Two postdoctoral scholars at Dr. Nancy Adler’s Health Psychology Program at UCSF gathered and formulated the research from diverse studies to ensure the statistics in Health Choices were up-to-date and consistent with current scientific research.
Finally, in searching for a way to personally connect people to anatomy, museums and health centers have been using our new Body Mirror. When a person stands in front of this exhibit, a detailed anatomical figure begins to mimic his movements in real-time. The on-screen figure can change from male to female, and highlight muscular, skeletal, nervous, or endocrine systems. Body Mirror runs on the new SocialMirror platform, which requires no special background, and a much more compact space. The system consists of an LCD screen with a specialized depth camera mounted above that can see in three dimensions. This new platform shows great promise for making a personal, physical connection to a body, because the body is a mirror of a person’s own activities, rather than an independent entity seen as separate from the viewer.
We’ve place these types of immersive health exhibits not only in science centers, but also in children’s hospitals, trade shows, community organizations, theaters, and corporate lobbies, and we’re encouraged by the positive response. We strongly believe it’s possible to mix health education with entertainment and gaming to make educational experiences that compete favorably with video games for people’s attention and engagement. Our dream is to create rich, “Fantastic Voyage“-like experiences in which people use their whole bodies with each other to explore the mysteries of our bodies – imagine working together to physically block a virus from entering a cell as a way of educating about infectious diseases. Imagine a physical video game that both kids and adults rush to play in their spare time, that, as a side effect, teaches them all about microbiology, health, and the body, and gives them a workout!