Barbie. The blond plastic icon. An extremely popular toy and the main source of revenue for Mattel. Back in the 60’s, Barbies were selling like iPods on Black Friday. Marching vigorously through the 70’s and 80’s, the army of Barbie dolls generated a hefty amount of revenue for their creators.

But one day, with a flash of a pixel, the marching clogged. An army of virtual ghosts – phantoms made out of logic and light – crawled out of mysteriously dark dimensions and invaded our world through quadrilateral portals called ‘screens’. Their leaders and heroes carried bizarre and horrific names such as Half Life, Grim Fandango, Diablo and Lara Croft.

Computer games are the dominating pioneers of interaction design in today’s digital world. The industry is three times more profitable than the entire sales profit of the software industry and is by far, larger than Hollywood sales. Halo 3 had the biggest entertainment launch in history, with $170 Million in sales in the US alone in the first 24 hours!

Physical toys have always been part of humanity’s “play” activity, a major tool for understanding the world around us and a way to gain practical skills in our physical environment. By being so entertaining, toys are facilitating the task of learning through enjoyment and fun. From the prehistoric age, humans have crafted dolls and playful models, representing physical elements and concepts in the real world. For thousands of years mankind kept on crafting toys, with very little change in shape or form.

Can a new generation of toys emerge, combining both the physical aspect and the diversity of the digital world?

This workshop provided students with both practical and theoretical knowledge in the field of computer vision, in relation to play,games and toys. The expected results were toys or games in which a person uses a physical object to interact with a digital environment.

In this class, students created innovative “magical” concepts, that are physical, serving as controllers and actuators for functions dealing with digital data. Digital data can be a wide set of elements, starting from pure text and ending in audio, videos, images, and at times even social particles. The emphasis was on creating a new hybrid of physical computer games.