Bounden: Dancing Together With Your Device

I love this app! How did I not know about this earlier?

I’m perpetually dissatisfied with the trivial and antisocial design of mobile apps.

I want to move beyond “social” apps where you never meet people face to face, and beyond “quantified self” apps that are all about me, me, me, and only me.

Let’s build apps that only work when we are together, in person.

Bounden (from now defunct Game Oven Studios in Utrecht) does just that!

Bounden is Game Oven’s whimsical dancing game for two players, with choreography by the Dutch National Ballet. Twist and twirl elegantly, or get entangled with a friend.

This follows several of “Bob’s Rules” for cool app design. “Be here now” certainly applies to this app, not to mention, “The dog only dances if both of you are present.”

There is no way to use this app without being face to face, and, in fact, touching each other. While the device is a bit of a distraction, I’m pretty sure that the players are very aware of each other, and quickly ignore the phone in favor of the living body next to them.


They also follow my advice, “if you want to build embodied computer interfaces, you should work with dancers.” These guys took this challenge seriously, and involved professional dancers to design the “games”. In this case, The Dutch National Ballet, no less, So cool!

Looking at the explanations in the videos, it is kind of cool how they use a 3D model of virtual globe to glide the dancers via their one shared view point into the hidden world. That sounds abstract, but the fun thing is that, to do it, the people must move their bodies in what we recognize as a dance.

In a sense, the mobile device is providing a physical realization of a relationship between the two people, similar to how a dance might be designed. Note how they designed the movement without trying to track and model the people in any detail!

I’ll also point out that this concept does not require network bandwidth, nor does it need high definition video or 3D. Nor does it use GPS or real world location tracking. In fact, complex visual effects would probably detract from attending to moving your body.

Finally, I note that, in this case, a wearable would not work as well if at all.  Two people “hanging off” the external device is crucial to the interaction.  How would you do this with a “smart watch” or head mounted display?  I don’t think you can.

How could this app be extended?

With a larger table, what would happen if you had 3 or 4 people “attached”? The choreography will get more constrained, but I bet it could work.

Or, using local networking, can several pairs of people dance in coordination? I’m thinking that the world model that drives the dance might be shared among several (very close) phones, creating a 4, 6, or 8 person dance around the same virtual globe.

This app is so much the right idea, in so many ways.  Well done.  (Shall I call it a very, very appropriate touch screen interface?)

This particular gang broke up earlier this year.  I hope we’ll hear from them more in the future.

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