Mind Blowing Media

Here is a collection of links to novel interactive digital media applications I found inspiring. They are not necessarily new but at publication date they all meant a great step forward in the interactive media domain and are still worth a look.

The character all projects have in common is that of an exhibit or 'demo'. They combine computers and interaction devices into installations that can be easily experienced and enjoyed by lay audiences.

Two aspects make these projects worth studying in my opinion: They use or combine media devices  totally different from their intended purpose and they are cheap to produce. Game controllers, mobile phones, projectors and other affordable hardware are glued together by creativity and technical skill. The results are original, surprising, spectacular and funny.

 Johnny Lee's Wiimote Hacks

The classic: in 2008, Johnny Chung Lee came up with some ingenious ways to 'misuse' Nintendo's Wii remote controller. Tracking fingers, the head or a whiteboard pen with a device for 20 €. All his Wiimote hacking projects are presented on his page. The software can be freely downloaded.

 Kinect Hacks

Microsoft's game controller Kinect suffered a similar fate as Nintendo's Wii controller. It was immediately hacked and connected to PC. The results are equally stunning. A collection site worth visiting:


Paperdude VR
Paperdude VR by Globacore combines a bicycle trainer, an Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display and a Kinect sensor creating an immersive interface for a classic video game. Inspired by the arcade game Paperboy (1984) the player rides a bicycle throwing newspapers into the gardens of the neighborhood. Smashing windows and barriers is rewarded with extra points. The video explains how everything works and is fun to watch. 

Façade projections are more than just throwing images on buildings. Carefully calibrated by a 3D model of the building front, they create plausible illusions of false windows, lighting and even moving walls. Videos can hardly explain the fascination of a huge piece of architecture suddenly coming to live, you have to see it life!

PS: Here is the link to the Dutch group Graffiti Research Lab, performing interactive façade projections. More examples can be found here.

Superbien's room installation uses a similar technical setup as façade projections, but for an indoor exhibit. A number of white cuboids is placed in one corner of the room,  the projector is situated in the opposite corner (or so I figure).
The projection is driven by a 3D representation of the physical installation. By this means, edges and faces can be precisely targeted and illuminated. I love this installation because of it's aesthetic appeal and simplicity.
 MIT Sixth Sense

Sixth Sense is a wearable Augmented Reality device developed by Pattie Maes and her students in MIT's Media Lab. Worn like a necklace, it projects virtual images onto the physical environment (including fellow humans) and allows interaction by hand gestures. Although I doubt that a system integrating all the features presented really exists, the concept is groundbreaking. The project homepage is here.

  Omnitouch by Ph.D. student Chris Harrison with Carnegie Mellon University is surely inspired by MIT Six Sense and the possibilities of Mircosoft's Kinect. A combination of a projector and a PrimeSense depth camera is worn on the user's left shoulder. Any hand held object, a wall in front or even the own hand or arm of the user can be used for multitouch interaction. While looking very similar to Sixth Sense on the first glance, the video presents much more concrete user interaction techniques and seems to be more mature technology than conceptual work.
GVU ARhrrrr Shooter

An Augmented Reality Game running on a mobile phone. A physical game map is superimposed by a virtual town overrun with zombies. The phone is moved above the town like a helicopter. The user has to shoot the zombies in order to rescue the citizens. Developed at Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization & Usability Center. The homepage of the project can be found here.