The Portable Pixel Playground commission for Folly is underway. The project aims to combine physical play (moulding the sand in a sandpit) with virtual animal husbandry, and is aimed at 6-12 year old kids.

For us it’s a great opportunity to make something solid, simple, fun, immediate and aimed directly at kids – something we haven’t done directly since the Virtual Puppeteers project… although it has to be said that children have explored and had fun with several of our other projects.

Virtual caterpillars, projected onto the sandpit, react to the physical topography of the sand, and can be enclosed by sand walls, scared by children’s hands and fingers, and attracted to each other. When they meet, magical things begin to happen…

Technically, the project uses a Point Grey Bumblebee stereo camera to capture depthmap information from the sandpit in real time – using software and ideas first developed for Driftnet during a Research Fellowship at Arts Institute Bournemouth in 2007. See here for another experiment with the Bumblebee.

Camera view of sandpit, and depthmap (red near, blue far)

Bumblebee on tripod

Trial setup

Physically, the piece is going to need to be strong – not only to survive the elements outdoors in a playground, but also to survive the children! Currently the ideas revolve around a large 3 or 4-legged dome-shaped structure (steel and tent material) that will shield the equipment and the sandpit itself from the elements, and also some light.


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