Syllabus

In this one-week skills upgrade course, students learned to harness and manipulate different computer-vision tools by the use of a camera, that provides machines with the ability to ‘see’. The early stage of the workshop focused on building artificial systems that obtain information from images in order to understand their surrounding environment. The camera in this case is correlated with the human eye. However, the human organ that actually decodes this information is the brain and not the eye – interpreting images as what humans grasps as ‘vision’. This first step explored ways and techniques to craft such machine-vision.

The second part of the workshop drove students into the world of Games and Play. By investigating classical computer games, physical games and toys, students will brainstorm the topic, experimenting in original ideas that will combine both physical ‘toy’ objects, and the digital world. Conceptually speaking – at this point, new interactions and games emerged.

The third and final part of the workshop focused on realisation and crafting the above concepts. At the end of the workshop, students had a physical working prototype of their idea, the result, in the form of a new game was presented to fellow students at the end of the course.

This course placed students at the intersection of design, technology, art and psychology. Students incorporated these areas with the discipline that each brought with him/her, at the moment of entry to workshop. On the technical side, each student was exposed to tangible user interfaces (TUI) – communication tools which a person uses to interact with digital environments through physical objects.

Technology
Computer Vision is the science and technology of machines that can see. As a scientific discipline, computer vision is concerned with the building of artificial systems that obtain information from images. Among many tools and computer languages such as C++ and ActionScript, students were introduced to the reacTIVision platform. reacTIVision is an open-source, cross-platform computer-vision framework for the fast and robust tracking of fiducial markers attached onto physical objects, as well as for multi-touch finger tracking. It was mainly designed as a toolkit for the rapid development of table- based TUIs and multi-touch interactive surfaces. This framework was developed by Martin Kaltenbrunner and Ross Bencina at the Music Technology Group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain as part of the the reacTable project, a novel electronic music instrument with a table-top multi-touch tangible user interface.

There is a strong and ongoing inclination for the industry to turn the presence of technology in our surrounding to ubiquitous and transparent. The miniaturisation of electronic devices has been going on for quite some time, which enables us to hide or embed them in other, sometimes seemingly unrelated products. The Internet and cellular communication, allow for our personal information and virtual property to be practically everywhere, and accessible almost anytime. These and other trends bring about occurrences that might be referred to as magic.

To some extent, interfaces are actually doing the same. There is no witchcraft, but rather professional techniques that amount to mere illusions – but with just as much impact on the viewer or participant. Accordingly, it might be supposed that these different aspects of the general scheme may all serve a purpose in the field of Interaction Design, and by far in the field of Computer games. When considering interactions, these can just as well help to define functionalities and
features.

Magic
Students were exposed to magic-trick techniques and experienced and learned optical and physiological deception, mostly by using simple everyday objects like coins and cards. This was to demonstrate that the process of perfecting a magic trick can be viewed as parallel to the process of developing an interactive object. This is also closely related to performance art, where audience feedback is vital. Once a concept for a trick is established, or say a joke in a stand-up comedy show is drafted, training commences. Whereas a magician practices his/her actions and checks his/her instruments, a comedian tests the manner of portraying the sketch to reach the best, and funniest phrasing and timing. This is crucial for the success of each, and for improving on the initial model. Agile-usability- engineering use similar methodologies, such as backtalk of a situation, where challenges of the creative progress, themselves teach and educate, rather than just present obstacles (hinting to a conclusion that the developer must also get better, not just the product).

By: Yaniv Steiner