Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shaking Up Our Relations With Machines

Katherine Isbister, director of the Game Innovation Lab at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, gave a talk about human computer interaction and leveraging game mechanics to engage people into moving their bodies.

  • When people engage with computers, they are often in a hunched position, looking at their screens. A colleague of Katherine's compared this to people being in the threat position.
  • People like the iPhone and one reason is that they need to stroke the screen to unlock it. This motion is comparable to petting an animal. It is warming and inviting, not vindictive.
  • Engineers often make very dry interfaces, but we need more kinetically engaging human computer interaction.
  • G-mail Tai Chi was created as an April Fool's joke, perhaps as a parody of a talk given by Katherine herself at GDC. The joke is that users would have to perform tai chi in front of their webcam to check their e-mail. But for Katherine, why not? It is a healthier way to interact with your computer.
  • Studies have shown that multi-touch authentication (ie. using all your fingers to unlock your tablet) is not only more kinesthetically pleasurable, but also more secure.
  • Physical movement in HCI may be awkward and confusing to people, but in the game space, it's okay to move around. Katherine has been working on several games for learning that involve large kinetic movement.
  • Scoop is played with the Kinect, where players extend their arms out and solve math problems by cutting fractions. Hormones shift as you move more, which increase math confidence.
  • Moveit/Yamove is a 2 player game in which both players hold a phone. They are given the name of a move to do and both players not only have to come up with a way to physically represent the move, but also do it synchronously. This game will be featured at No Quarter. When Babycastles took hold of this game, they turned it into a dance off game.
  • Katherine is also working on a surveillance camera game based on the idea that public surveillance will soon become public utility. The game is played in the space outside of the Game Innovation Lab at Polytechnic University. Players gather as many people to crowd in the camera's vision space, which in turn controls characters in the game. The game itself is projected on a giant wall installation.
Question and Answer
  • Schools tend to inhibit movement. They teach kids the value of sitting and focusing on one singular task at a time. But Katherine points out that bicycling has both properties of focus and movement.
  • Katherine moved to academia because she couldn't stand the idea of sitting at a cubicle all day long. She needed the freedom to be able to move around throughout the day.
  • Repeated HCI actions have transformed our bodies. An attendee recounts a girl he saw on the subway train, who spent the entire ride texting. He noticed that her extreme amount of texting throughout the years have transformed her thumbs into a weird unnatural position. Katherine mentions pictures of manual laborers of the 1930s who have grown unnatural muscles from their work at the assembly lines.
  • She commends Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for a game that promotes large active movement. The game includes many fast-paced micro-games where the player is given a quick image of how to hold the controller and then is thrown straight into the game without any further instructions. Due to this nature, the player doesn't have much time to process a way to perform these moves in a not-so-embarrassing way.
  • There are many interesting display devices in our future from touch screens to wall mounted displays to Google glasses. It often takes academia to take advantage of these technologies in interesting ways.
  • What are other interesting postures besides the dominant and feeble? Synchronicity is a very powerful gesture.
  • Will motion controlled games ever enter the realm of pro/competitive gaming or gold farming? Pretend swordfighting can be very taxing to the player; they can get easily exhausted after a few minutes of waving their arms wildly. It is difficult to have physical games be deep, long-session games.
  • Games need to take advantage of the beauty of the human movement. When motion utilizes the movement qualities that are beautiful, a great spectacle can be provided by the game and the players themselves.
  • Much of traditional game UI is antiquated. Joysticks derives its design from plane controls, as if a player of a game pilots the avatar. Radar display have a significant influence on game HUD.
  • Is there a paradigm shift between casual and hardcore gaming? Physicality is often not the front-end for traditional games. Dance and exercise games have recently been big sellers. There is no reason why dance games can't be played by a controller, but it loses much of its power if it was designed for a traditional controller.
  • Naomi Clark mentions a parody video of a Kinect version of Assassin's Creed, where the players do ridiculous movements to play as the highly-acrobatic assassin. Link:

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