Going digital in the public space

by Cross Motion - 06/10/2017 - 11:48

It broke. Somehow it broke and I was the only one who could put it back together again. The thing broke the morning before I was to leave for Denmark and its first public viewing. It’s purpose was gone, all that was in its stead was a brick with a computer attached. It didn’t work as I left for the airport. This would be a long night of hotel room coding.

Apegroup has been working on a game prototype for Malmö Museum through Media Evolution and Cross Motion. Media Evolution is a cluster that helps bring knowledgeable people and industries together. Cross Motion is an EU funded project that brings together screen industries (audiovisual and video-game developers) in hope of bringing cross innovation between creative companies and individuals.


We set up two design lunch meetings (salads) to figure this out. We wanted something you could pick up and play without picking something up, just begin to play using whatever is lying around. The game should be something you pass by in a public space and think “Yes, I can do that real quick”. If you haven’t got it within four seconds you will probably move on to the next thing. To conceptualize that we used a Google Design Sprint (GDS) with a diverse team of UX designers, coders, Visual Artists and Game Designers. This gave us a couple of ideas we wanted to pursue. After the GDS we had an old fashioned brainstorm session with three people, one UX Designer, a Game Designer and a Technical Lead to form the ideas into something we could build.

The idea was to use your shadow, projected onto a wall, to create a solution for the obstacles presented in a game. For example a ball rolling down a hill needs to hit something to not fall into the water. Or an animal wants to cross a bridge but you have to build it out of yourself. Real problems for real shadow people.

We built the first prototype with a web camera and an open library of camera functions. It turned out we built something very similar to Microsoft Kinect in a couple of days. Since what we built was a bit wonky we decided to use the real thing and develop the rest of it with the game engine Unity and a Kinect device.


We started coding it out and made a small game prototype that would be able to scale up and be many different types of game. Easy and lightweight was the way we wanted to move. With the Kinect and Unity in place we had a small prototype up and running within a week. You could interact with the environment and make more simple games using only your body and what was perceived to be your shadow on the wall.


                    ‘ Stupid Slow Super Hard Volleyball simulator 2017’ 


What went wrong was of course a simple thing. The graphics. As soon as they were loaded into the engine everything behaved different. The hit detection, the interaction between the player and the environment changed and went into crazy town. After a long night and a lot of peanuts in a tiny hotel room in Aarhus I got it back up to a broken but running position. Despite the breakage we showed the game at Digi:Tal 2017 in Aarhus. A conference where geniuses can get together and talk shop and future innovations. Together with a lot of VR technology we stood in the experience center with a fantastic crowd of smart people, showing a broken tech demo with old, but very cool, technology. It was a wild ride getting there and it didn’t look like much but at least it was playable and above all it was fun. I think everyone who tried our ‘Stupid Slow Super Hard Volleyball simulator 2017’ had good time. So in a way the demo worked, it just didn’t live up to its potential. 


Apegroup loves a good challenge and this was a pretty big one.
We set out into a space we don’t have much experience in using hardware we had never used before combined with software we had to make up from scratch. It’s an unpopular opinion and it’s hazardous to present but me personally, I love to fail. Failure spurs me on, makes me challenge myself and do better. This was a failure I learned much from. So, how do we take this further?
First we fix what is broken, and then we rebuild.

And then we rebuild again, making it bigger with every installment. Hopefully the name “Stupid Slow Super Hard Volleyball Simulator” won’t stick and when you try it it’ll be all over the wall. And if it’s something we learned from this its that don’t add things five hours before your plane leaves.

Keep it simple. Don’t make waves after you just rocked the boat once. One time is enough.

Daniel Dahlquist


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