From December 8th till april 11th, the Victoria & Albert Museum is hosting a huge digital art/ generative media event called Decode. Aside of the main exposition, a few interesting multimedia gigs have been organized for the event; one of these was the OF Lab, some sort of hackathon where a group OpenFrameworks geeks / multimedia artists had 1 day and a half to get to know each other, start to work together and create a few installations inside the museum.
[full story after the break…]
As I already said, OpenFrameworks has become one of my favorite tools (because it’s open, it’s multiplatform, it’s easy to handle, it’s c++ and therefore damn powerful, etc…) and I really liked the idea to use it to create something pretty for a cool event inside one the most charming museums of one of most beautiful cities in the World; to make a long story short I managed to get involved in the project, I booked the first flight and on friday 26th, at about 6.30 pm, I was at the V&A saying hi to Zach and getting to know a great group of talented people.
The group I joined was dedicated to give life to the Human Pong, an idea brought on the table by Ben, a very young german guy who sported a linux distro on his laptop (using linux is a big plus from my point of view🙂 ). The rest of the squad was composed by:
What we wanted to do was to make an easy and funny experience like the one of the original Pong game, even more direct: we wanted that visitors could play Pong using their bodies in a natural, instinctive way, we wanted to take a game that is both a piece of the pop culture and a symbol of the history of the computer age, mix it with some new school technology that still tastes like sci-fi to most people and create a human/machine interaction where the interface would fit so comfortably that people could use it without instructions, actually forgetting that there even was an interface.
As soon as we made a rough idea of the available materials (a few cams, ir filters, ir lights, a projector and basically all we could grab from the museum’s painting lab) it was closing time at the V&A and I went to have dinner at pub near the hotel and then straight to bed.
The morning after the real fun began; we divided into 3 main areas: I started working on the computer vision stuff needed to track the players’ movements, another group began writing our version of the Pong game and the last group was in charge to create physical rig for the game.
We spent the day of Saturday and a few hours of Sunday morning on a trial and error routine; we went through weird setups, like using a few Macs as building bricks:
… clever projector and infrared lighting setups:
… then we had depression rushes when the physics engine would not want to be friend to the computer vision engine, then finally, all of sudden, everything was working properly.
Our Human Pong table started working just in time to say hello to the crowd of visitors that started to fill the room. After checking a last time that everything was ok we headed to lunch; after a few minutes Ben showed up with a smile on his face and told us that people loved our work and there was a couple really intrigued by the computer vision interface that was repeating “oh my god, it’s ammaaaazing!”. We laughed and decided to officially change our project’s name to “The Amazing Human Pong”.
During the rest of the day a lot of kids and adults alternated at the corners of the human pong table, giving us a very satisfying feeling; just to give you an idea of the final human pong experience I post Arturo’s video below: