Interactive Dangerous Australians

Dangerous Australians from Lightwell on Vimeo.

Let’s face it, all Australians are dangerous on the sports field, but the the Australian Museum has a new interactive installation called Dangerous Australians that allows you to interact (safely) with Australia’s deadliest top ten creatures. The saltwater crocodile, funnel web spider, box jelly fish, brown snake are among them. Via the six-metre long interactive table you can explore what happens if you encounter them and what should you do to survive.

The installation was created by Lightwell under the technical direction of ex-COFA and ex-Fabrican Dave Towey. The whole thing is running under OS X and coded in Cocoa/Objective-C++ with a bunch of open source libraries including Ogre3D, OpenFrameworks and OpenCV (computer vision for the tracking).

Thanks to the Objective C++ it looks like it runs extremely fluidly and fast. For me, it’s interesting to see how the interactors act and react. The children use really quick jabs at the ‘buttons’, as if they’re trying to test the interface and its affordances. But the bit I love most of all is how the person with their hand in the ‘water’ snaps it away in reflex to the Great White Shark that suddenly appears (around 0:50 in the video).

More images and details on Lightwell’s page – and take a look at their other work whilst your at it.

Track Yourself and Friends with SportsDo

Ever wanted to track your training route and activity or just remember where you skied?


My brother, Matthew, was given a SportsDo account and kit for Christmas by his wife, Naisha, which does just that. (Although a friend of hers said “So, basically, you bought him a husband tracker?”).

It’s a pretty smart pulling together of several existing technologies along with a neat interface integrated with Google Maps. It uses a Bluetooth GPS receiver connected to your mobile phone to capture the data. This gets uploaded to the user’s profile (here’s Matt’s) showing everything from the route to altitude and timings, etc.

What’s particularly handy is that you can then track people via text messaging, which means if you all have one when you are up a mountain skiing and/or in a long-distance race, you can find out where your friends and competitors are. Everyone else at home can use the RSS feed.

You can also remember which runs you did, how many times, how many calories you’ve burned, etc. and show off at the bar afterwards (and sing rubbish songs).

Given that the data is pretty rich and looks as if it’s reasonably accessible I could image it being used for all sorts of interactive projects too. Or just to check your partner really is walking the dog.

[tags]sportsdo, tracking, gps, bluetooth, mapping, Matt Polaine[/tags]

Wii remote for a head tracking display

Here’s an interesting video of inverting the Wiimote and infrared sensors to create a surprisingly realistic optical illusion for a single user:

A lot of interaction and GUI design is about optical illusion and willing suspension of disbelief, something usually talked about in fiction. It’s tempting to try and make things ‘for real’ sometimes, when actually a fake or a bit of smoke and mirrors works better.

Driving games aren’t really using realistic physics, they’re usually souped up to make things more exciting. Those aren’t really files and folders on your desktop there and this isn’t really a page. Of course you know that in the back of your mind, but you willingly ignore it in order to utilise the illusion.

When you try and make a metaphor real, you get all caught up in knots sometimes and lose the benefits of the abstracted version. Bumptop is a classic example of this – by mimicking a physical desktop you end up with all the same hassles, such as too little space for all the junk. I wrote more about this at length before.

What’s interesting about Johnny Lee’s approach above is that it’s so low-tech. Another example of the openness and cheapness of the Wiimote producing innovation. The other aspect is that it doesn’t really require much in the way of a headset, unlike other VR systems whose kit only serves to constantly break the suspension of disbelief.

Although plenty of research grant applications seem to thrive on making things much more complicated than they need to be, it is generally good to remember the KISS principle.

Can you think of some other good examples of these kinds of simple illusions in interface/interaction design?

[tags]interactivity, VR, Wii, tracking[/tags]