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Dorkbot London – How to turn complicated things into playful things

13 things I learned at Dorkbot London, 15th October 2015

Thanks to Tom Whitwell for summarising our work so well.

1. Play is simple.
You know how cats chase the red spot from a laser pointer? Humans are exactly the same. Tine Bech’s installation Catch Me now is a spotlight projected onto the floor, controlled by a webcam and a computer. If you step into the spot, it expands for a few moments, then moves. Simple code = complicated play and lots of laughing.

2. Adults don’t like to play when there are children around
When Tine set up her Catch me now at the Science Museum, during the day, it was dominated by children. But at night during a science museum late opening, the adults felt they had permission and played with it in exactly the same way as the kids. Children are the apex players, at the top of the hierarchy. Only when they’re absent will adults play.

3. Cameras encourage more exuberant, open behaviour.
Tine’s installation On the Bridge Reykjavik parliament building was a long, narrow bridge. She added motion sensors, red and blue lights and smoke machines, as you walk across, the red light and smoke follows you. People realised it was a great place to take selfies or group shots, and the presence of the camera made them do more, releasing their natural inhibition.

4. Humans are incredibly good at reading body language
For Surface Tension, Nicola Plant motion captured people explaining pain and discomfort, showing what it was like to have a headache. She isolated specific movements, then built a simple 3D robot arm (three arduino-controlled servos and wooden sticks) to replay those movements. Visitors were able to understand these very simple robot movements as painful or uncomfortable. Nicola is developing her work to help make robots appear more empathetic.

5. Humans can learn complicated interactions quickly through play.
In Tracking You, Tine Bech gave people coloured capes with RFID Tags on the shoulders. Movements are tracked by a system in the ceiling and used to trigger sounds. Each cape creates very different sounds (big and monstery, or tiny and tinkly) as they move, and nothing when they’re still. When players get close to each other a laser ‘shooting’ sound is triggered. Within seconds of putting on the capes, players got the game, adopting characters and body language based on the sounds, shaking their shoulders (that’s where the tags are, so you can create more sound that way) and devising zap zap fighting games.

See it all and more here
Join DORKBOT LONDON – people doing strange things with electricity

Artwork by Tine Bech Studio ‘I Play’ 2016