Author Archive

November 29, 2012


I recently attended ISMAR, an augmented reality conference that took place in Atlanta this year. There were a lot of interesting demos, but most of them relied on a marker placed in the real world to track off of. One of the most innovative projects I saw was Sphero, which instead looks at sensor data from a ball that rolls around your living room. In practice, this actually works really well. The cute beaver character always covered up the physical ball, and looked as though he actually belonged in your room.

Sphero also has 20+ other games where you can manipulate the physical ball with your smart phone, or you can control a game on your smart phone by moving the sphere. This reversal of input and output is the kind of fun technique that I like to experiment with in my own work. Hopefully Sphero can inspire you as well.

November 29, 2012

AR Sandbox

Kinect has been used for a bunch of interesting tech demos, but I haven’t seen a whole lot combining Kinect with tabletops and augmented reality at the same time. AR Sandbox lets users carve out sand sculptures in a digital sandbox, then simulate watering flowing through the contours of this landscape. What I really like about this project is that it is so easy for anyone to interact with and enjoy. Most of us have fond childhood memories of building crumbly towers along the beach and watching as they melt away in the rising tide (or simply submit to gravity.) This project lets you experience the joy of creating sculptures in a sandbox anywhere. Or at least, anywhere with a Kinect and a projector.

November 28, 2012

Tangible Music: Prior Work

My group is working on a tangible music game for our project. We thought that it would be fairly novel, as the Sifteo cubes that we are using to control the game have not been out for very long. Like seemingly everything in else in HCI, it turns out people have been thinking about and creating similar projects for years.

A website by Martin Kaltenbrunner archives many of these tangible music projects, and even includes a page dedicated to “musical building blocks.” There are a number of inspiring projects on this page. One that I find a particularly good combination of physical and digital media is the Tangible Sequencer, a music composition tool that uses physical arrows on tangibles to indicate the sequence of digital sounds that will be played: just follow the arrows to know which cube will play next.

Another project is the Siftables Music Sequencer, created by Sifteo’s President David Meryll. Siftables shows the incredible potential of Sifteo cubes. The following video shows the siftables prototypes in action. It seems like the design does not have enough affordances for such a complex synthesizer, but it is still great inspiration for future projects.

Click to Watch Video

Looking at prior art is great inspiration for a project, and we are hoping to learn from these projects and others as we create our own tangible music game.

November 3, 2012

LEGO Life of George

Most of us have heard of LEGO Mindstorms. Another interesting project by the toy company is Life of George, “the world’s first interactive game combining LEGO bricks with your mobile device.” Life of George gives users LEGO building challenges on their mobile phones that they must construct in real life. The user then takes a picture of the finished structure, and the mobile software determines how close it is to the original instructions.

Life of George is a great example of how computer vision can be used in design games. It even allows kids to upload their own designs for other players to build.

Here are some Halloween-themed designs submitted by real players:

November 3, 2012

Tangible Music Vision Video

Our group formed out of a shared interest in new interaction types and music technology. We decided to use Sifteo, a system of tangible, digital “blocks” to create a music game.

Our vision video demonstrates a “paper” prototype of two game ideas we could build with Sifteo cubes:

  1. A Tap Tap Revenge-inspired music game where you must perform actions in time to the music.
  2. A Bop It game that takes the original mechanics of bop it, pull it, twist it and add all kinds of crazy new ideas like blend it, add it, and connect it.

Check out the video to see these ideas in action.


October 31, 2012

WarioWare D.I.Y.

I’ve been interested in game creation software ever since I was in elementary school. I remember using tools such as Apple’s Cocoa/Stagecast Creator and Clickteam’s Multimedia Fusion because their rule-based game creation was intuitive for applications that were mostly visual. I used Multimedia Fusion to create Sonic the Hedgehog fan games. While these tools gave you a lot of freedom to build your game, the rule-based structure becomes difficult to manage in larger game-making efforts. Enter: WarioWare D.I.Y.

WarioWare D.I.Y. is an effective game creation tool because it manages scope. All games that you create have to be winnable in 5 seconds. This means that even if you don’t have the patience to create your own JRPG, you can definitely sit down and churn out five seconds of gameplay. This concept also works perfectly with the WarioWare ecosystem. WarioWare games are mashups of hundreds of short gaming challenges. By letting players make their own minigames, the team is giving players a way to share their ideas, and for everyone to download fresh game content on a regular basis

October 2, 2012

Games About Shows About Games

A popular web series called The Guild just started its 6th season. The show follows a group of people who are addicted to a massive multiplayer online role-playing game. Rather than discussing the game itself, the show devotes most of its attention to how these people navigate the real world, and how consequences of their in-game actions can cross back and forth between the digital and the physical realms.

This TV show is one level of abstraction above the game, but is it possible to imagine a game about a show about the game? What sorts of mechanisms can you employ in “meta games?”


A game is about manipulating variables to achieve a goal. In a game about a show about a game, you could influence a show character’s virtual character through the success of the show character: if the show character gets a new job, they will have less time to play the game and the game character’s progress will suffer.

I looked for similar meta games, but I wasn’t able to find any. Is it possible to make fun meta games? How meta can you go and still consider something a game?

September 16, 2012

Meditation Games

My previous post mentioned meditation as a form of unstructured play. I was interested in what other meditation games were out there, and I also wanted to know whether they would be gimmicky or actually facilitate the meditation process.

One game I found was Deepak Chopra Leela for Kinect. In the following video, skip ahead to the 2 minute mark. I think this is a really good example of a slightly structured task that keeps you mentally engaged, but with an unhurried pace and a soothing soundtrack. It’s a game because you can complete the task, but instead of mastering the mechanics, the goal is to achieve an inner peace. However, some of the other activities in this collection seem less peaceful. The game at 3:15 has you launching fireballs to destroy a sheet of rock. The sound effects are also very harsh and sudden, knocking you out of the flow state. Deepak Chopra Leela is a good example of meditation games done right as well as meditation games done wrong.

Another example I found was Guru Meditation, an Atari game created by GT faculty member Ian Bogost. The player sits on the Joyboard controller, which measures their weight distribution to determine balance and focus. There are subtle environmental changes on the screen to show the passage of time. As the user becomes balanced, a yogi on the screen will float into the air and a counter will show how long the person was able to stay balanced. Bogost also created an iPhone port of the game. I prefer the Joyboard input style over the iPhone because the user can keep a meditative posture and look straight ahead without having to hold onto anything. However, I like Bogost’s suggestion that playing this meditative game on your iPhone means you can’t be texting, twittering or emailing at the same time, and so you are forced to hold your attention on the meditative experience. Check out Bogost’s description of the game here:

Finally, here is a third game that I found through Bogost’s blog post. Wild Divine uses biosensor input to help the user reach a state of meditation. I haven’t played the game, but Bogost makes the argument that the graphics are actually too stimulating to induce a meditative state. Below is a sample image. You be the judge.

September 16, 2012

The Importance of Play

One of the readings from this class that has had the most impact on me is “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development.” Giving kids the space and time to play on their own is necessary for childrens’ “cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being.” Parents are under increasing pressure to schedule kids time down to the minute to maximize exposure to structured activities and academic enrichment opportunities. This may raise childrens’ test scores and improve their ability in quantitative measures, but it can also cause kids unnecessary stress and anxiety. Kids need time to be kids.

I study human-computer interaction. I really enjoy what I do, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all of the projects and classes going on all the time. It’s made me think that children shouldn’t have the monopoly on play. Play is important for graduate students, too! Play helps you think more creatively, but it also helps you experience life and find problems that would be useful for you to address. I realize that the time graduate students have to play can be somewhat limited, so I found a few links with ideas about fun activities that can take your mind off work for a while.

  1. You can invite your labmates over for a party. Here are a few game ideas, including The Name Game and The Not So Newlywed Game:
  2. Some digital games can also help you relieve stress. This game called Meditation Flowers lets you “sing, chant, or drone your own sounds” to grow interesting graphical patterns on the screen. Play is not always about completing a predetermined puzzle. Freestyle play can be a great way to meditate and shut off the left side of your brain for a while.
  3. Another idea for finding time to play is to create a bucket list, then making an effort to cross items off the list. Make sure that ideas can be accomplished in a few hours or a weekend. For example, I want to go on an all-day hike through a state park.

Taking time to relax, have fun, and play will not only give you a break from work, but it will also make you better at your job. You really can have your cake and eat it.

September 16, 2012

Board Game Pecha Kucha

Group members: Yan-Ling Chen, Andrew Harbor, Dustin Harris, Chih-Pin Hsiao, Nathan Weitzner

Games: Blokus 3D, Bendominoes Jr., and Goblets

We imagined applying these game concepts to healthcare, music technology, and education. Future applications could be a Blokus 4D or using Goblets to teach abstract concepts such as taxonomy of animal species or inheritance in object-oriented programming.

See our slides: Board Game Pecha Kucha