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Foghorn asked us to create the interactive component for Intel’s booth at CES 2012. The result was the Intel Connect to Life Experience, the world’s largest interactive, multi-user, real-time-3D virtual life simulation.
Spanning the entirety of Intel’s booth, conference attendees could use any of six custom-made stations around the perimeter of the booth to create a shape using their hands, phone, keys — pretty much anything — and the silhouette of that object was used to generate a unique bioluminescent lifeform on the massive projection surface overhead. The animated lifeforms interact with each other in playful ways, dancing with one another or chasing other lifeforms around the ecosystem.
The system rendered approximately 30 billion triangles per second to deliver a 17.6 megapixel image at 60 frames per second, all powered by Intel Core i7 technology. This system’s 16,800-pixel-wide output was displayed over a 2200 square-foot, non-uniform, projection-mapped surface using 24 projectors.
Our interactive piece was just one part of the Connect to Life Experience, made possible through a tight collaboration with Foghorn, Intel, and other supremely talented firms. It was an honor to work with such creative partners as 2LK, WorldStage, Stage Light Design, LeadDog, and The Taylor Group.
We designed and developed the software portion of the exhibits, aimed at children and adults alike, collaborating with the Taylor Group for cladding and enclosures and with Intel on content and concept. The exhibits featured 2D and real-time 3D interfaces, covering topics as diverse as Intel’s history, animated illustrations of Moore’s Law, the future of silicon photonics, exactly how small a nanometer is, and much more. We powered each of our exhibits with a single Intel® 2nd Generation Core processor-based PC, with no additional video hardware or GPU, granting us higher-than-video framerates at HD frame sizes.
UPDATE: LoopLoop wins “Best in Category, Expressing” and “Best in Show” at the inaugural Interaction Design Awards! Read the full press release here.
Our work at Stimulant ranges from massive interactive wall-sized installations to small handheld devices. Our friends at Sifteo gave us an amazing opportunity to work on our smallest device yet.
Designing for “Inch-Scale” Computers
Sifteo cubes, originally featured in 2009 at TED, are sturdy 1.5-inch-square devices with 1-inch screens, not unlike a child’s building block. They have an amazing tactile quality and fit well in hands of all sizes and ages. Sifteo cubes are aware of their own orientation, tilt, direction, and proximity to other Sifteo cubes. A single button is embedded underneath each cube’s 128-pixel-wide screen. They are controlled wirelessly by a nearby computer and come in packs of three (expandable up to six) cubes.
Sifteo asked us to contribute to their launch portfolio of games that focus on kinesthetic learning, spatial reasoning, and collaboration. We whittled dozens of concepts down to a project we’d all love to work on: a multitrack music toy that was more exploratory than goal-based, and would leverage the minimalist and modular nature of the cubes themselves.
Passion, Prototyping and Playtesting
We all love music at Stimulant. Many of us have been DJs or musicians at some point in our lives. Combining this love with our penchant for interactive, playful experiences is part of what makes coming into work so rewarding, so it wasn’t a surprise when we after much deliberation we decided to go down the path of making music.
The design team started prototyping the interaction design while our developers researched the technical constraints and possibilities of the Sifteo cubes themselves. The design began on paper, with lots of little doodles of possible screen states, and talking through the interactions between each Sifteo cube. We even used existing, physical game pieces to playtest the application without writing a line of code, and used even verbal beatboxing in lieu of actual audio output.
Bringing LoopLoop to Life
With the interaction model prototyped on paper, we began the process of laying down the technical framework and exploring our visual and audio design options. Sifteo’s development team was extremely supportive of our efforts, modifying their SDK framework and sharing our passion for what LoopLoop could become.
We opted for a visual style that would mimic the inferred emotional attributes of the Sifteo cubes themselves: cute, minimal, quirky, with surprising complexity revealed over time. This look and feel influenced the sound palette and naming of the application, which is a nod both to the onomatopoeia of the patterns, as well as the nature of how the tracks repeat themselves.
The Stimulant team aggressively stuck to a “less is more” ethic when it came to features, scope, and priorities. We focused on doing fewer things, and doing them better. Iteration and fine-tuning of the technical, interactive, visual, and aural aspects of the project led us towards something that we felt was fun, engaging, and a joy to play with.
Welcome to the Lab.
Stimulant's always creating things, and not everything is for a client. Our proofs of concept edify our own curiosity, can solve common client problems, or just probe the edge of what's possible. This is one part of how our culture of technical creatives and creative technicians stay sharp, have fun, and keep looking towards the future.