Week 3: Hopping into the ARENA

This week we started by taking a second look at our pitches and trying to bring a new perspective in to our decision making process to help us narrow them down. We received some advice from faculty about focusing the machine to be usable, accessible, and to encourage magic moments. We’re defining magic moments as those primary points of connection between the virtual world and the physical world. We’re looking to have 2-4 of these major magic moments throughout the interaction. Because the machine will be installed in the museum, we’re very worried about scope and making sure that the reactions that we set up can be polished to the point of necessary robustness.

When thinking about these magic moments we started to think about different categories to sort our potential reactions into. We’ve broken these down into reveals, releases, timelapses, and animations. There are of course other options for us to consider, but these are the primary points of focus for us at the moment. Reveals occur when moving a physical object only to have an AR object appear. A release in comparison is when an AR object is displayed inside of something, only to have that physical container open and allow it to escape.Timelapsing will speed up an otherwise impossible reaction within the machine. And Animation is taking a physical object and bringing it to life in AR.

After looking at the pitches that we made last week again, we made the decision to pursue the story of how to send a letter to a friend. The other concepts offered either narrative interest to the audience, or an interesting juxtaposition to the space it would take in the museum.

We drew up some options considering some of these magic moments that might contextually fit for this story. These involve using a physical typewriter to trigger chain reactions that reveal something for someone viewing in AR, opening a door on a physical bird cage to release a virtual bird, and pouring water into a container to grow a giant plant.

Knowing that we needed to choose an AR platform as soon as possible, we built out a small demo using ARENA to begin experimenting with it. The videos below shows a ball dropping onto a bed and rolling to the floor and a ball moving simultaneously to an apriltag.

Going forward, we would like to begin experimenting with a Raspberry Pi to try and implement physical-AR reactions or vice versa.

We also got some important clarity on the expectations of the project from our client. We have been chewing on the issue all week of figuring out exactly how much of the machine should be physical and how much show be virtual, thinking at first that maybe anything that could be physical should be. The difficulty of that is our access to fabrication resources is somewhat limited during Covid. Through talking with the client we came to terms with the fact that most of the physical elements of the machine will be static props with AR reactions occurring around them, and we will focus on just a few major moving physical to AR transitions.This will allow us to focus our attention on really polishing the thing we have the most control over in AR.

Next week we will have 1/4s and sitdowns and we plan to work on the first interaction loop of the machine which includes releasing the bird from the cage.