Introducing Inter-Act

What exactly is this new summer program for our older makers?

chairInter-Act, our combination of the Bits (physical constructions) and Bytes (computational constructions) is a week long foray in the world of mixed-reality experience design.  In other words, we combine the use of hand, power, and computer controlled tools for making elements out of metal, wood, plastic, and more with the use of digital media, computer code, and electronic circuits to produce a one of a kind experience that exists partly in the ol’ RW (real world) and partly in VR (virtual reality). bytes

For our campers ages 10 and up, this means an intense crash course in this broad range of tool sets followed by a group design session where campers self-select the ideas and tools they wish to work on for the remainder of the week.  A couple days of design and prototyping in small groups follows and the project is realized in a flurry of production in the final days of the camp.

Each week, the project re-imagines the body and brains of a 10 foot steel cube.  The cube is the shell for the project and the backdrop for full body tracking using a Microsoft Kinect sensor.  Additional infrastructure readied by our guides includes high speed communication between Arduino microcontrollers and the Unity3D game and simulation engine, converging with Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headsets for one of a kind games and experiential media.

The possibilities are limitless and the cube has already been re-imagined in 4 very different ways.  One of our favorite thus far is a game our campers coined “Win or Burn” which pits two players against each other through two unique interfaces.

Player 1 stands, Oculus Rift enabled, atop a wood framed platform complete with wood posts and steel chain guard rails. The platform sets the stage for what the player perceives to be a bridge over an otherworldly sea of lava.  Armed with an Arduino enabled cannon trigger worn on the players forearm, the Kinect body tracking allows the player to point their arm and fire off rounds of lava balls from the confines of the bridge.  Meanwhile player 2 sits in a wood framed cockpit crafted by the campers, and operates a game controller for the navigation of their jet pack which they can use to drop bombs, from on high, on the bridge confined player.

Realizing this game took a ton of team work, super creativity, and dedicated practice of a number of different aspects of the Bit Space workshop.  Hand tools, power tools, laser cutter, 3d modeling programs, game design tools, 2 programming languages, and more were employed in varying degrees by each of the campers, with some focusing more on the physical construction while others built out the digital.  With only 5 days from start to finish, this extremely rapid prototype really knocked our socks off.

Keep an eye out for more Inter-Act post mortems as the cube evolves this summer.