Commons has been selected as a Semi Finalist in this year’s Knight News Challenge for Mobile.  The Knight Foundation announced the semi finalist winners after closing the Knight News Challenge for Mobile in September with over 525 applications.  The submission application for Commons is short and sweet, posted to the Knight Foundation’s Tumblr blog, with a link to the concept video.

By way of background, the Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding the best breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding – and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas.

In 2012, the Knight Foundation changed the pace of its Knight News Challenge, running three rounds in succession, each round with a unique theme: Networks, Data, and Mobile.  In 2013, the first theme will be Open Gov, which Commons is also very well suited for, so if we are not selected for the Mobile round then we will apply to the Open Gov round.  Thanks for your support!


We brought Yamove to IndieCade 2012 this week in Los Angeles. For those of you who might not know, IndieCade is an International Festival of Independent Games, and it’s known as the only stand-alone game festival in the nation — sort of akin to Sundance for films. Our b-boy style dance battle game, Yamove, was selected as an IndieCade 2012 official finalist this year! Finalist nominees were determined by an international jury from all 2012 submissions, and were eligible for nine different awards, including the Audience Choice Award and the Game Maker’s Choice Award.

It was a good year at IndieCade for the New York City gaming community, showcasing several finalists and a 2012 Official Selection, including games made by the NYU Game Center Faculty, MFA and undergraduate students, games made for No Quarter and at Global Game Jam site, and more entries from throughout the NYC scene.

Yamove was also a featured game at the NYU “No Quarter” exhibition in 2012, and at the 2012 World Science Festival in New York City. The research behind Yamove will be presented in a keynote at MobileHCI in September 2012.

Yamove! is a b-boy style dance battle game that uses tech to augment face-to-face dancing. Players compete in pairs, aiming for high intensity, in-synch, diverse dance routines. Each player wears an iOS device strapped to his/her forearm, and teams compete in 3 rounds. The game is hosted by an MC and results are displayed on a big screen. Scoring is based on accelerometer data from the devices. The experience is more socially engaging than the current console-based dance games, because players face off and the crowd forms more naturally around them and the MC. The game was inspired by research that shows how being physically ‘in synch’ brings people together emotionally and builds trust.

Yamove logoAll of our playtesting and months of refinement paid off. Yamove was finally launched last month at this year’s third annual NYU “No Quarter” gaming exhibit on May 18th and at the World Science Festival in New York City on June 2nd. People loved the dance-off battle aspect of the game and the way the rounds brought strangers together in synchronized movement.

In designing the game, I wanted the flow of the dance rounds to be very fluid and fast-paced so that people would lose their inhibitions about dancing in front of others and would feel a competitive edge take over. It’s really challenging to get people to feel comfortable dancing in public, especially among gamers, so I wanted to design a game that encourages friends and strangers to ‘team up’ and form spur-of-the-moment social bonds based on dance battle frenzy.

The game is built on iOS and uses vector data from the accelerometer to measure team dance performance across three areas: synchronicity (togetherness), intensity (energy), and diversity (creativity of gestures). In our playtests, I found that people were getting frustrated when they didn’t have immediate feedback about their level of performance against these three measures during the dance rounds, so in the final game design we really tried to give players simple, real-time feedback about these aspects as they moved on the dance floor. Over a series of tests, we deduced that players liked to see this real-time feedback about every 7 seconds or so.


Yamove game featured in The Verge gallery

Designing a physical game based on people’s body movements and gestures is definitely challenging, mostly because people aren’t used to mentally combining technology and human kinetics in every day life. These two mental spaces are not seamlessly connected in our brains yet because we don’t have a lot of tools and applications out there in today’s world that are designed to do this well for us. We still don’t associate the two worlds as one experience, and so it takes a lot of user testing to design a game or product that merges these two into one smooth experience. A few products have done this very well, such as the iPhone’s finger touch display which changed the way people interact with flat screens across many environments. The Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect, and Google Goggles have not done this in the same way as the iPhone’s revolutionary mark, but these products have started to trigger the average consumer’s interest in wanting to try new experiences that combine technology and physical movement. With Yamove, it was very difficult to design the entry point for the game in order to get people moving around, and I still think this is the greatest challenge with the game — once people are used to moving their bodies around then it becomes easy to introduce other interactions, but the first challenge is really how to get people to make that first physical movement with their arms and legs.

Similar to the immersive water installation I designed in 2010, Channels, I believe the best way to help people overcome these mental blocks that separate our thinking between technology and physical movement is to design a user experience that “feels” intuitive from the start, like a natural response that we already do in our everyday lives, so that we don’t let the tendency to over-think the interaction creep up on us. Channels uses people’s familiar tendencies towards water, for example our instinct to want to dip our hands in the cool liquid and our curious desire to want to paddle and push the water around in a tub, to drive the user interactions with the product. When people see a puddle of water on the ground, they want to step in it and splash it around with their feet – same thing with water in a tub – when people see water in a tub and hear relaxing soothing sounds from nature, they want to put their hands in the water and feel it run through their fingers. After a few minutes of playing with Channels, people are shocked that playing with electricity and water can be so calming because normally we don’t let our minds and bodies relax when we think of combining electricity and water – we think of danger. People at the Channels exhibit exclaimed to me “Wow, I can’t believe this experience is so calming and how much it reminds me of my childhood memories of being on the water.” Building new experiences on top of familiar human interactions and mediums is the best entry point for combining the two worlds of technology and physical movement.

Yamove! is a cooperative dance-off game in the style of a street dance battle that uses tech to augment a true face-to-face dance experience. Players compete in pairs, aiming for high intensity, in-synch, diverse dance routines. Each player wears an iOS device strapped to an arm–teams battle to win best of 3 dance rounds. The game is hosted by an MC and results are displayed on a big screen.



This week’s study in our Da Vinci class is about robotics and automata. Our assignment is to create a robot or automata, give it a name, and describe its features.

For this piece, I was inspired by the class of insects that take on the shape and form of sticks and leaves, commonly known as stick insects, and the art form of robotic insects. MIT has been building robotic insects for years, and many DIY makers now do this around the world. One of my favorite examples is the Articulated Singer Insect, created by Christopher Conte in 2005, which he made from antique singer sewing machine parts like his grandmother owned.

My drawing includes the figure of a tree budding and my robotic insect creation, Phasmeria.

Phasmeria is a 5 inch robotic insect whose visual processing and patten matching technique mimics that of an order of insects known as stick insects. Most phasmids, or stick insects, are known for effectively replicating the forms of sticks and leaves, and the bodies of some species. Their natural camouflage can make them extremely difficult to spot. The Phasmeria identifies things in its natural environment that are similar in shape and configuration to itself, and then adapts its camouflage to mimic its surroundings. Phasmeria are known as robotic insects or mechanical insects, built to the specifications of the Phasmatodea, class Insecta.



This week we studied the Da Vinci themes of optics and light. We looked at several artists who work with light, such as Dan Flavin and James Turrell. We were invited to go to PS.1 in Long Island City to see James Turrell’s long-term installation: The Meeting.

Our assignment was to make a pencil and ink drawing on the topic of light, optics, and eyes. Select an artist and extend from his/her practice. Invent past our comfort zone. Pass the first and second thought. Illuminate the topic from our personal point-of-view.

I was inspired by Jacob Sutton’s L.E.D. Surfer, a short film featuring a pro snowboarder wearing a suit of LED lights at night. “I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness,” says Sutton of his costume choice. “I’ve always been excited by unusual ways of lighting things, so it seemed like an exciting idea to make the subject of the film the only light source,” said Sutton.

In my own piece of art about contrasting light and dark, I also wanted to work with the unique texture of the paper and sepia ink color, a bit of organic-ness.



In our Da Vinci class, we studied geometry, symmetry, and folds this week. We also watched the PBS documentary film, “Between the Folds” about the art and making of origami paper folding.

In Grand Central Station, I saw a ball gown in a store front made from paper. It was beautiful, especially the rosettes.

This week our assignment was to make a sculpture from watercolor paper: Paint it, draw it and fold it. Also as a part of the assignment, we were invited to attend the John Chamberlain exhibit at the Guggenheim, and were asked to write down our reactions to his work on our folded paper sculpture.

I folded my paper with sharp edges, so that it stands up on the table. From the left angle, you can see the images painted on the inside of the center fold.

Synthetic Fetus


This week’s focus is anatomy. Da Vinci cut open cadavres and made incredibly sophisticated drawings of human anatomy, and this is one of my favorite areas of his work to study.

Our assignment:

Study the artist Sterlarc and his practice. Inspired by his statement, “We are in the age of the cadaver, the comatose and the chimera,” invent an extension/project for him: Invent the technology and the science. Combine mechanical and organic forms. Show different angles. Integrate him into the drawing. Complete and compliment with text.

Using the form of the human fetus, I made a mechanical extension of a 22 week old fetus for Stelarc to wear on the exterior of his body. This would not seem strange to you if you knew that in 2007, Stelarc had a cell-cultivated ear surgically implanted in his left arm. With that said, I believe this synthetic fetus seems like a device that he would actually wear.

Stelarc close-up:

Drawing process: Start with pencil, then with the brush with different degrees of water define the light and shadowy areas, then finish with ink.

For Da Vinci class, we had to replicate the Study of “Design for Chariots and War Weapons” by Leonardo Da Vinci c. 1485, The Royal Collection. His drawing of horses in movement are amazing.

Materials for this work include pencil, ruler, dip pen, sepia color ink, round watercolor brush, and watercolor paper.

I’m taking a class studying Leonardo Da Vinci, in which we try to tap into the polymath mind of the genius artist-engineer. His 7000 pages organized in codices serve as a creative framework to survey contemporary digital art. Throughout the course, we review digital art practices in the areas of his study and his inventions of warfare, flight, anatomy, robotic, geometry, architecture, painting and more, and we focus on exercising our own capacity to invent.

This week I invented a micro flame torch based on organic and non-organic forms. In particular, I was interested in the form of the bellows, a method for delivering air or gas in a controlled quantity, using the shape of the human lung and rib cage.

Our assignment:

Select three (or more) elements from Da Vinci drawings and one photograph of a tool of your choice, collage them together in Photoshop and then draw them onto paper, first in pencil and then ink. Integrate text into your drawing: text that explains your design and sites the source images from da vinci; text that inspires. Your goal is to make a completely seamless drawing.

Materials for this work include pencil, ruler, dip pen, sepia color ink, round watercolor brush, and watercolor paper.

For my final project in Video Sculpture class, I made a miniature 3D display top for the iPhone, using the illusionary technique of the Pepper’s Ghost Effect.

I wanted to recreate the feeling as a kid when you catch fireflies in a jar, or bugs in a box, and you wish you could carry those living things around with you everywhere you go. In my box, I decided to include a variety of living things, ranging from butterflies to chipmunks to…(surprise) dinosaurs.

I constructed my own pepper’s ghost box for the iPhone 4S, based on the documentation from the Japanese crew who built the i3DG Palm Top Theater. The makers did not include a pattern or DIY instructions, so I was on my own for the construction, which was a really fun challenge.

Using regular clear plexi glass (not mirrored plexi), I built a small scale 3-paneled box that encompassed the screen size of the iPhone.

In order to get the correct measurements for this physical construction, I had to first section the iPhone screen into 3 parts of the overall 960 x 480 format. I found these proportion guidelines from the i3DG Palm Top Theater makers. The top portion of the screen should be the largest width, and descending in width to the bottom. These distortions will help make the 3D video objects appear layered in foreground and background. Each part also has a black space below it for the plexi glass to be placed on. I cut out paper patterns, then cardboard patterns, and then I laser cut the real plexi glass according to these measurements.

After I cut out the plexi glass shapes using the laser cutter, I glued the pieces together in 45 degree angles to help create the 3D visual effect. Then I enclosed my iPhone and the pepper’s ghost box top inside of a user-friendly black plastic box to make it look like a seamless object, kind of like a child’s toy. This small, dark enclosure space really helped enhance the effect of making the video objects appear 3D and morphing into one another in the foreground and background.

I created several short videos featuring living things, such as animals, insects, and fantastical creatures, moving around in different environments, like grass swaying in the breeze and rain falling. I primarily used green screen for these objects, and in After Effects, I used the keylight effect in order to key out the green screen. Then I layered these video objects using the iPhone screen layout measurements to create 3 sections for the pepper’s ghost effect.

It worked! The rain effect looks amazing inside the tiny box, and the butterflies look very delicate and realistic. My classmates really liked the end product and imagined that this sort of box could easily be turned into a marketable toy for kids, especially if the user interaction could use the iPhone’s accelerometer to control the movement of video objects.