Our final project Channels was featured at the ITP Winter Show 2010 this past week. We had a great space for our installation in the front room to the left of the elevators. Roughly 2,000 visitors came to the show. People of all ages visited our installation and sat in our boat, and we were really pleased that so many people loved our piece.

The IEEE Spectrum interviewed us during the show and featured our project on its tech talk blog. Dope!

Our story was also picked up by Engadget in an article about game controllers.

A New Day’s Work wrote a feature story on our piece, and we received some great comments on that site. A New Day’s Work is a year-long project to promote works by today’s new media and electronic artists.

The design magazine, Core 77, featured our project in its coverage and beautiful gallery of the ITP Winter Show. The reporter noted the theme of ‘nature’ throughout this year’s show (moss and water), and how impressed people were by the first-year students’ polished work.

Our fellow ITP students, Arturo Vidich and Nisma Zaman also captured live video footage of our project during the winter show.

Channels from Nisma Z on Vimeo.

It was great to test the durability and reliability of our design with hundreds of people. It was especially satisfying to see so many children digging the installation. I learned a lot about the design and development process from this experience, and I really enjoyed brainstorming with visitors about where we could take this type of work in the future.

My favorite part of the show was noting all of the really great comments and feedback that we received from people about our project:

“This is very soothing.”

“I could do this for hours.”

“This is like I’m at the spa!”

“You could connect this to an exercise machine at the gym, like Equinox, so that when people work out they feel like they are out in nature.”

“Oh my gosh, it’s REAL water!”

“Canadians would love this!”

“This whole experience – even the sounds – reminds me of a lake in Vermont that I used to go kayaking in with my friends.”

“Wow! You would never think of interacting with a computer with water.”

“It’s like virtual kayaking.”

“This could be the next PlayStation or Kinect.”

One woman wrote to us after the show to tell us about the impact our installation had on her:

“I don’t understand a bit about the technology but the aesthetic experience for me was one of the most significant in recent times. I felt as if I was back on a lake in Wyoming in the summer or walking by the river there in winter where there are no sounds at all except for a few ducks that managed to stay through the winter. Total peace. I want that whole arrangement in my house! It was truly beautiful.”

Children had a blast with our project. We had several returning customers! I was thrilled that our physical construction withstood testing from so many young children (ages 2 – 12). Our project turned out to be a pretty popular kid-friendly installation at the show.

What’s next?

There are a couple of directions we’ve imagined taking this project in the future. We would love to build several different 3D fantasy worlds for people to upload and explore, breathing life into each world with unique objects and sounds to match each new environment. In fact, a visitor from the show asked us to build a rain forest skin for “Channels” as part of a greenhouse exploratorium.

Another possible approach is to integrate our piece with a terrain mapping program, making it possible for people to travel to their favorite water channels around the world and relive memories. Why not give people the option to navigate a river in India, or a lake in Virginia, or float in the Dead Sea? Where would you like to go?

I’ve also thought a lot about game design, and how to incorporate elements of game play into this piece. For example, adding a race to the finish line, or making a world hidden with objects that users need to collect in order to win a high score, or making the virtual rowing competition about dexterity and hand-eye coordination to see who can navigate around the water world with mad skills. I’m very interested in the ‘physical feedback effect’ that makes game controllers like the Wii and the Kinect so engaging, and devices such as the Nike+, and I’d like to study this effect in our “Channels” project to understand why the physical motions of paddling, rowing, and moving water with hands are so relaxing and captivating for people.

We’re very interested in organic media / game controllers. Besides water, we’ve also thought about using dirt or mud, sand, rocks and stones, bio-metric data (heart rate), human breath, and even plants like the “Moss Invaders” project that was also featured at the ITP Winter Show 2010. If you haven’t seen Tom Gerhardt’s “Mud Tub” from the ITP Spring Show 2009, check out this video.

Read about the background and inspiration for this project in previous blog posts.

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