Tech Co. Marries Movement And Digital Capture For A Virtual Dodgeball Game
PSFK spoke about the Future Of Gaming with the co-founder of The Supertouch Group Sam Ewen, a company bridging the virtual/physical divide utilizing Kinect technology for virtual games played in real life.
The PSFK consulting team has noticed that enhanced connectivity across devices is enabling seamless interactions between tablets, smartphones and other screens, creating new opportunities for planned and impromptu gaming experiences and offering users new ways to engage with their surroundings.
One company operating in this space is the SuperTouch Group–a New York City company working to marry the physical and the virtual world by enhancing the physical interplay between technology and a consumer. Utilizing Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing technology, the company has created a game for controlling a virtual character who is interacting with virtual artifacts being controlled by players in the physical space. The concept is rooted in the idea that a growing number of people have connected computers in their pockets in the form of smart phones or tablets, creating new opportunities for people to interact with digitally-augmented landscapes. PSFK spoke with Sam Ewen, Co. Founder of The SuperTouch Group.
Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company.
Having been in the marketing world for about 14 years with the primary goal of creating unique and attention getting experiences for brands, I started to realize that technology was finally at a point where it could be weaved into those brand experiences somewhat seamlessly to enhance and augment the physical interplay between company and consumer without a large technological learning curve. Along with my technology partner, Alpay Kasal (@alpaykasal), we launched The SuperTouch Group in late 2007 as an offshoot company solely focused on the hybrid point between user behaviors and computing interaction.
Please tell us about your Kinect Dodgeball game. What is the idea and goal behind the game?
We had been exploring the Kinect since it came out and had found it to be a pretty impressive device in how easily it created the ability for the real world and the virtual world to connect to each other. Most of what we were seeing though, was still focused on the Kinect to put yourself into the virtual experience on a screen, what really interested us was looking at ways that we could marry the physical and the virtual. We had played with using the Kinect’s sensors to control physical devices with your movement (lights, screens, monitors, Arduinos, computers, etc.) and then realized that everyone is carrying a connected computer in their pocket or bag with their smart phone or tablet. We thought that creating a system where a player is controlling a virtual character who is interacting with virtual artifacts that are being controlled by others in the physical space could be really fun. Our lead programmer Chris Rojas designed the system in Unity 3D and then we put an app layer on our iPhones, Droids and iPads and started playing. It turned out to be a lot of fun. And quite hard if you are the main player.
What has been the audience reaction? Can you share any stats around user engagement?
We have only used the game in our demo studio, so we have not had mass audience yet, but so far, the game has been very well received. What is even more interesting is how quickly people start to see other uses for the game dynamic. We have had musicians come in who think about adding that same interactive layer to their apps so people at at concert can contribute to the visuals on stage or choose the encore song. We have had fortune 500 companies discuss how you could use the same concept to augment their trade-show or corporate events by making the technology and information flow back and for the between presenter and viewer. The gameplay is really a bait and switch to a larger discussion about how we can tie peripheral devices, touch and gesture all together for fully immersive experiences.
We have noticed that enhanced connectivity across devices is enabling seamless interactions between tablets, smartphones and other screens, creating new opportunities for planned and impromptu gaming experiences and offering users new ways to engage with their surroundings. Do you see this trend manifesting on a larger scale?
I believe that the enhanced connectivity and share-ability of current technologies, in addition to the fast pace of development of creative input devices is the real win here for how we can affect overall experience. There is a hybridization happening that is still in it’s infancy. Gesture control, voice and facial recognition, mobile device input, artificial intelligence, motion tracking, augmented reality, locative media/art and related technologies are all going to be colliding to make a shared experience that in the past only existed in science fiction. But we believe that these participatory, shared and collaborative experiences, that exist simultaneously in the physical and digital landscape and are tied to location and social availability are the future of collective experience, we are doing it already in a rudimentary way when we check in, tweet and post a photo while at an event or happening and use tagging to create a context, but all of that data can tell a bigger story with the more control we can give on the input and presentation modes.
What other trends within or around gaming have you noticed?
We are not focused on the traditional gaming market, we feel we are focused on creating entertaining and unique experiences using technology. As we get away from the paradigm of games being played while sitting at computers, connected to screens using keyboards, mice and and handheld controllers, and instead go towards gameplay aligning with physical movement and kinetic experience, we feel there are unlimited ways to turn people on to these new forms of wondrous experience. That is what turns us on, it is what keeps us going.
To read more about what is going on in the gaming space today, read about our new report on The Future of Gaming.