Cucalu iPhone App Reinvents Eye Spy to Let People Rediscover Reality


Cucalu turns the real world into a game in which players photograph shapes in their physical environment

Vashti Hallissey
  • 13 august 2014

Now that so many people have smartphones, it’s getting harder to the real world to compete. Who wants to pay attention to a street when there are articles to read, makes to play and updates to make?

A new game encourages people to look away from their phones, by turning the real world into a big game of Eye Spy. Cucalu is an app that asks users to find and photograph shapes in the world around them and use these to play a digital game.

It was designed by Daniel Disselkoen, a visual artist and a former student of graphic design at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. After working in the USA and Japan, Disselkoen returned to his hometown and found it didn’t capture his imagination. He also observed the ubiquity of smartphones in public spaces.

Inspired by these experiences, he partnered with a team of developers from Innovattic, receiving a grant from the Dutch Gamefonds (Gaming Fund). Together, they created the Cucalu, an app that invites people to rediscover reality.


Disselkoen explains in the press release:

When you’re not familiar with a place, you look around and spot new and interesting things. But the better you know a place, the less tempted you are to look around. I really wanted to create something simple that literally gives you a new perspective.

App owners are tasked with missions to observe their physical environment in new ways.

The first mission is to find circles and take photos of them using the app. Other players will be able to see the image and its location, rewarding your pictures with a gold or silver medal if they are particularly creative. Users can also browse the images of other players, award them with medals and pick up photography tips.


Once your photos of circles have gained enough admirers, you are sent on a new mission to hunt either squares or triangles. With each mission that you complete, you are asked to seek out a new shape. If you are one of the first 1,000 people to fulfil all of the missions, you will receive a personal card from Amsterdam.

Cucalu is an unusual iPhone app in that it encourages people to pay attention to the world around them. By gamifying the physical environment, Disselkoen has found an way to let people look at their locations with new eyes.



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