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Tiff Nexus Peripherals Initiative.

November 18, 2011

Last Month in Toronto, as part of DigifestTIFF Nexus hosted the Locative Media Innovation Day at the Tiff Bell Lightbox.   The day was full of presentations on and about the topic of Locative Media, Augmented reality apps and games.   The most interesting and engaging portion of the conference for me was the introduction to the Peripherals Initiative, a creative jam that teamed up Indie Game Developers in Toronto with hardware hackers, in order to create new games that would feature new methods on control and interaction.

The peripherals initiative was a partnership between the HandEyeSociety, Ryerson University, Site 3, and

^^ Button Masher Presentation^^

Each team gave a short presentation on the work that they had done, and after this, attendees were invited to try the games and their new control systems.   There were some very interesting new works created for this including Analog Invaders ( a space invaders style game with an analog controller that featured vintage knobs, switches and a cable patch bay!), Button Masher ( a game using giant LED buttons), Grand Theft Artifact (a game played in realspace, where you had to navigate a maze of EL wires sort of like a spy movie), a failed experiment called Magic Carpet (which utilized magnetic levitation, though the designers could not get it to work, it was a fascinating idea!) and Eye Pilot (the world’s first optically controlled video game!).

Here’s the full presentation from the Eye Pilot Team:

A pretty innovative means by which to control a “game”, though afterwords while talking to the team, they told me that this was more of a “proof of concept” demonstration, rather than the beginnings of developing this into a full game.  I did have a change to “play” every game in the showcase, here are some photos.

^ Analog Defender control panel, which made the interface to the game difficult rather than seamless.  In order to perform an action as simple as firing your laser, you had to flip switches, turn dials and move the cable patches around.  Now I know how Scottie must have felt on the original Star Trek and why he was so stressed out everytime the Enterprise went into battle.

^ Button Masher, Giant button arrays made this game feel very physical.   Variations on gameplay included several VS and co-op modes.

^ Grand Theft Artifact.  the original intention for this game was to use lasers over EL wire.   It was set up in a theatre in the Lightbox.  Truthfully, if I could navigate this maze while holding a beer, it’s too easy.

The pilot frame built for Eye Pilot, designed to make you feel like you were in a cockpit.

Jim Munroe from the HandEyeSociety tries Eye Pilot.   Attached to the helmet is an array of infrared LEDs and a modded webcam, the IR LEDs illuminate the eye and the webcam detects the movement of the pupil.  Where ever you look on screen, that is the direction that you move.

One thing I have to admit having experienced this is just how much you have to consciously move your eye.  It was very difficult, because many of us don’t move our eyes this deliberately.  It was like flexing a muscle I hadn’t used before.  Here’s a video of the flythrough of the game.

I was very happy to be invited to attend this event, as it was great to see the kind on engaging and innovative work being done by game devs and hackers in Toronto.  I

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