A Fantasy Device

In ITP, Physical Computing

On our first day of Intro to Physical Computing, Tom Igoe challenged us to create an interactive “Fantasy Device,” which could be anything from a tool to a time machine.


What makes a device or a spacial experience interactive? Tom describes it as anything that listens, processes and speaks.

When Upasana and I sat down to for our 30 minute challenge, we immediately thought of existing experiences that engage the most senses simultaneously. There were a few that came up but we decided on driving a car. Driving a car involves touch, hearing, vision and smell, so it only excludes taste. What’s fascinating about such an experience is that all those senses are intrinsically linked and influence one another. When you accelerate, you touch the pedal, hear the engine, see the ground start moving and potentially smell the fumes.

We thought it could be interesting to take this experience and change the rules of the game to alter the way we interact with the car. We imagined an environment where someone could drive a car not only front-and-back and side-to-side but up and down as well. There were strong gaming elements to this environment and it was intended for leisure, not transportation.

One gaming element was a set of rings that the person was meant to drive through. Unlike a traditional road, where you know exactly where it’s going (A–>B), here you would only see a couple of rings ahead of you. This meant that your path was determined while you were driving. It’s the path you took within the rings that would determine the orientation of future rings. This “fly through the hoop’ element is a familiar challenge in many video games. The idea of creating the course or path in real-time was really meant to add new layers of anticipation and reaction. This also speaks to the listen (see how people drive through hoops), process (determine the route based on how they drove through the hoops) and speak (make new hoops appear to determine the course of the car).

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As mentioned before, we also wanted to alter the way the driving experience affected your senses. So an example of this would be the driver seat that would sway laterally and tilt up and down depending on steering wheel movements. The intention was to create new perspectives for the driver and make their field of vision more dynamic.

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CRITIQUE

While I like how the idea Upasana and I presented was very playful, I believe we may have bit off more than we could chew in 30 minutes. Instead of being able to focus primarily on the interactive elements of a device during our allotted time, much of it was devoted to creating the concept behind this “new” driving experience.

Secondly, I realized that the car movements and experience we were illustrating was pretty much describing a plane. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel (no pun intended), we could have used a plane and spent more time crafting the interactive gaming environment.

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