Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interactive Spaces in Indianapolis (using Flash + others)

I think May's Flash Indianapolis meeting was the most interesting meeting to date. We visited the Pervasive Technology Lab at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and got to check out what was in the lab as well as interact with four of the pieces.

The first piece that was shown was an interactive space created by Tony Dewan and Chris Basham, called Waterwall. The video explains it better than I can in words, but I will still give it a shot. Picture an open space in with a large video projection on the wall displaying the ocean and a buoy who types messages to you. You step into the space and the level of the ocean rises. Moving around in the space creates waves and more turbulence for the buoy, who will promptly complain about it. The more people that enter the space, the higher the water and the more waves that are created. It was a very cool experience to see everyone moving about in different ways trying to see how the levels, buoy, and waves would react.

Behind the screens is a camera overhead which is taking screenshots at 5 fps. ActionScript 3 is comparing each screenshot and looking for differences in mass and movement using Threshhold calculations. Mass is calculated by how much space is covered by people/objects. Movement is calculated by comparing the current frame to the previous. Mass raises the water level. Movement creates the waves in the save X position that the movement occurred. Both the capturing of data and the visual display was done in AS3.

The second piece we visited was a multi-touch screen. Currently it is in an early experimentation form and just displays different types of interactions that could occur. Such as playing a guitar or moving multiple windows across the screen while interacting with the contents of the windows. Java was the language of choice for this project.

The third piece displayed was an explorable environment created by Todd Shelton using both Papervision3d and WiiFlash. It was very cool to be able to control the environment with a wii remote instead of a mouse, it seemed very natural. We just passed the wiiRemote around the audience and let everyone take a stab. The outdoor environment has grassy hills (created by a bump map), a small pond, trees (using 2D planes), and a flying bird (also 2D Plane using the MovieClip Material). This framework would allow the environment to be easily changed and altered. If you wanted a mountain in the middle, you would just have to change the bump map. The ultimate goal of this project is to create an environment for students to explore and learn. One idea is for the students to use different tools and take water samples for pollution. The experiment could then alter the environment (ex. adding Cows next to the water) and seeing how this would effect the water samples.

The final piece we experienced was a touch table that had been created for the Indianapolis Museum of Arts. Dr. Polly Baker, who is in charge of the lab, presented the piece. The table displayed images of items found throughout the museum. As you interacted with the images, your actions would change the 3 projection screens around the piece. You could interact with the items using a couple different markers. One marker was used to select an individual image. The selected image would then be projected on the wall so that you could learn more about that particular time. Another marker was used to find out where in the museum it's selected image could be found (using a second projection screen). The third marker grouped the images on the screen in ways that you would not normally associate the items. So if you clicked on an image of an artifact, it might cluster the images in groups by pieces in the museum created during the same time period, by people of the same culture, or artifacts made by the same material, etc etc. It was a very cool and educational way to explore the items in the museum.

After we got to see the four interactive pieces, we then explored the rest of the lab. Some very cool pieces including an 8 screen display, a virtual reality cave, a force feedback arcade gun, plus many more.

A great thanks to PTL, the speakers, and Dr. Polly Baker for hosting us and letting us explore their interactive spaces. If you get a chance to check out the lab, I would highly recommend it.

No comments: