“Boxology”, A Playful Environment

Another interesting “play accessory”, from U. Limerick: cardboard boxes (with hidden digital augmentation).

This project has some really nice ideas, and it would be much easier to implement today than it was in 2001 with arduinos, raspberries, and so on.

The “garden” is an “installation piece made up of fifteen [cardboard] boxes” that participants can play with. The boxes are digitally augmented to have four different novel (for cardboard boxes) behaviors. There are our kinds of units:

  1. Recording – “When opened, each of the boxes records a separate audio
sample.” Each different recording box transforms the input into a rendition by a different musical instrument.
  2. Play – paired with the recording boxes, when opened plays back the current sample “in” the corresponding recording box.
  3. Stacking – controls the volume of the playback by stacking more boxes in a tower.
  4. Tempo – a large box that changes the tempo as it is pushed here and there.
Figure 17. The CGG being used by school children in Ennis. From:  1. Ferris, Kieran and Liam Bannon, "...a load of ould boxology!", in Proceedings of the 4th conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. 2002, ACM: London, England. p. 41-49.
Figure 17. The CGG being used by school children in Ennis.
From: Ferris, Kieran and Liam Bannon, “…a load of ould boxology!”, in Proceedings of the 4th conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. 2002, ACM: London, England. p. 41-49.

I particularly love the idea that I can “capture” my song in a box, keep it there, and replay it by opening a box to release it. (Actually, I’d like to be able to “pour out” my recording from the capture box!)

Beyond the details of this specific installation, the researchers are rather grumpy about WIMP interfaces and the boring, screen-based uses of computers. They want to see a more natural, playful interaction. Here! here!

They offer a list of design principles which are worth keeping in mind:

  •  Materiality of Objects – the central role of material artefacts in children’s play
  •  Human Activity – as a fundamental aspect of human being in the world
  •  Engagement – the need to excite, motivate, enhance the user experience
  •  Interaction – human play with objects being seen as a narrative activity, not simple action-reaction (mouse event – action) pairs
  •  Multimodality – incorporating several sensory modalities – visual, tactile, kinaesthetic, sonic, auditory
  •  Sociality – creating artefacts or assemblies of artefacts that allow for or encourage collaborative activity
  •  Computer as an augmentation tool – not a substitute for existing practices
  •  Objects as Assemblies – designing an object world, allowing for object juxtaposition, linking, stacking, etc. Creating emergent behaviours as a result
of human actions.

As I said, this kind of interaction is so much easier to build today that even in 2001. With cheap and easy to get processors and sensors, we can augment lots of things.

Wouldn’t you like to have a nice little “magic box” to record, store, and play back songs and poems and whatever? And maybe a larger box (or kettle?) that you can “pour” your recordings into, to “mix” them with magic spoons and forks?

This “garden” brings to mind the Thecla Schiphorst’s awesome “soft(n)” installation. A family of soft, pillowy artifacts that you can stroke and toss around. They glow and coo, feeling comfortable when they are near each other, and responding to petting. And when you toss one in the air, it sings “whee!” Awesome!

Some of the soft(n) creatures.

So, we could mash up some of these ideas. The artifacts detect each other 9and humans), maybe communicating in a happy pack. They might capture (“learn”) songs and play back (“recite”) if you are nice to them. For that matter, the soft creatures might “live” in the augmented boxes, sleeping and purring in their happy little village.

Phew. Stop typing, Bob, and get to work building this thing!!


 

  1. Ferris, Kieran and Liam Bannon, “…a load of ould boxology!”, in Proceedings of the 4th conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques. 2002, ACM: London, England. p. 41-49.
  2. Schiphorst, Thecla, soft(n): toward a somaesthetics of touch, in Proceedings of the 27th international conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems. 2009, ACM: Boston, MA, USA.

 

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