Ben Buchwald's Portfolio

World's Fair for Kids

September 2005 - May 2006
Client: Entertainment Technology Center

Project Description

Concept Art for Stadium Game
The World's Fair for Kids was a first of it's kind event designed to be a world's fair style event for kids and families. The World's Fair for Kids approached the ETC and asked us to design several experiences for the fair. We designed two original attractions for them: an interactive pre-show for a 3000 person indoor soccer stadium and a Jam-o-Drum based music making game for up to 32 people called Jam-o-Strum. In addition, the World's Fair for Kids contracted to use Quasi, an interactive animatronic character built by students at the ETC, as their official mascot.

The stadium game was based on some large-audience interaction work that I had done previously. The concept was for 1500 people on either side of the field to be able to lean to control a "robot" on the field in an oversized Pong-style game. Both sides' "robots" and the ball would be projected onto the field from three independent projectors with moving mirrors capable of positioning the graphics anywhere on the field. Although this part of the project was cancelled by our client, we had a working prototype of the game using both the audience leaning input and projector with moving mirror output.

A Jam-o-Drum
The Jam-o-Drum is a round table with four stations where players can use a spinning disc and large button to interact with videogames projected onto the surface of the table. Jam-o-Strum was the first experience to network up to eight Jam-o-Drum's together to create an experience for up to 32 people.
The Jam-o-Strum Experience
In Jam-o-Strum, each player has an instrument and is responsible for one part of a song. By turning the disc left and right, they can move a reader back and forth to play notes coming along a moving track. When all players work together, they can hear the entire song. At the World's Fair for Kids, guests could practice at the individual tables to prepare for hourly shows when all eight Jam-o-Drum's would be combined together with theatrical lighting, effect, graphics on large projection screens, and a holographic version of Quasi conducting.

My Role

As Technology Development Lead, I was responsible for overseeing the programming and hardware integration for Jam-o-Strum and the stadium game. Before the stadium was cancelled, I had written the game and integrated it with moving mirrors and projectors. In addition to the challenge of talking to the DMX controlled mirrors, I had to determine the correct algorithm to aim the image at a desired place on the field. In doing so, I was also able to calculate the image transformations to automatically keystone correct the images being projected.

Quasi the Robot
When we were first contracted to design a Jam-o-Drum game for the World's Fair for Kids' musical pavilion, two other team members and I came up with the original design of Jam-o-Strum. After that I had taken charge of leading the game design team, and directing the focus of the game. Jam-o-Strum went through several major revisions in features and visual style. I did all of the original programming and was the head of a two programmer team that finished its development. Besides writing Jam-o-Strum, our team also worked on the fabrication of ten Jam-o-Drums based on a new design. Not only was I involved with the physical construction, but I was also instrumental in determining the hardware configuration and design improvements of the new Jam-o-Drums.

Although Quasi was built the semester before we began work on the World's Fair for Kids, there was still a lot for us to do to maintain him and get him ready for his appearance at the World's Fair. I helped make both software and hardware improvements to Quasi. I became an expert at his setup and maintenance and even his creators would routinely turn to me for help with repair or troubleshooting.


Jam-o-Strum Prototype

Stadium Game Concept

Quasi Introduces the World's Fair for Kids
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