The Haunted House
At the beginning of our midterm project, my partner and I were brainstorming on many possible ideas to create products that could actually help people in their daily life. Most of these ideas were quite complicated and complex, and they didn’t seem possible to technologically realize in such a short timeframe. We were meeting up for our project in the café on the second floor one day, and while we were talking about all these possible ideas, my partner focused on the Halloween decoration in the cafeteria and suggested something totally different that we had thought of before: a haunted house. With Halloween coming up we both agreed that this could be a very fun project to be experimenting with. We knew that the target public would be quite broad, and even more; it would be something that our fellow classmates, people of our own age, would find entertaining. Many theme parks have had haunted houses from almost the very beginning, it’s often one of the oldest attractions build and nevertheless people, of any age, still evidentially enjoy the experience of purposely getting scared, shocked, and entertained. It is also one of the most prominent desires of human beings to gain adrenaline by experimenting with fear and the unexpected. For instance, by doing intense sports, climbing high mountains, freefalling, skydiving, cliff jumping, riding rollercoasters, watching frightening movies and in our case: visiting the ‘supernatural’ in a haunted house. Our haunted house however, is slightly different, we want to stimulate people to use their whole bodies to interact and engage with an electronical device and to engage with it. The purpose it to increase the communication and interaction between human and non-human. There are numerous reactions taking place between the user and the variety of functions of the developed device. The reactions of the device are unexpected instead of obvious and we need the users to use their whole bodies to gain them.
One of the readings was incredibly interesting regarding the design of an interactive project.Making Interactive Art: Set the Stage, Then Shut Up and Listen. In which Tigoe says: “The thing you build, whether it’s a device or a whole environment, is just the beginning of a conversation with the people who experience your work. What you’re making is an instrument or an environment (or both) in which or with which you want your audience to take action. Ideally, they will understand what you’re expressing through that experience.” The reading basically addresses that a project should be designed in such a way that the user alone is able to figure out how it functions by interacting with it. There shouldn’t be anything left to say by the creator. We used this in our project by trying to make the haunted house self-explanatory. It definitely helped that almost all of us are familiar with the concept. However, we added a few elements that would give the user more definition. For instance, we added the slogan “I dare you to come a little closer” and images of skeleton hands near the ultrasonic rangers, to encourage the user to decrease its distance with the haunted house and use their hands in front of the sensors to discover what awaits them. The user testing session definitely helped us with enhancing our current suggestions to make it less obvious yet present.
The first haunted house was built in the United States during the Great-Depression and opened in 1969 in Disneyland. There have been ghost houses, but never an actual ‘haunted house.’ In a way, Mr. Walt Disney is one of the inspiring artists of our project. Before his famous theme park, Disney developed film-animations because he wanted to create something new and modern for the public, he wanted to entertain them with his own creations. Something we want to as well.
One other inspiring project was the PomPom Mirror created by Daniel Rozin, who, in his design used the movement of the human body as the signaler for his mirror to produce its reactions by following the movement of the body. This artwork is a collaboration between humans and devices, which is something important and present in the future, since this collaboration is developing incredibly fast. Besides this, the use of the human body is an important element here as well.
Another interesting reading for us was Introduction to Physical Computing by Igoe and O’sullivan. In which they talk about the senses seen by the computer, even though his portrait of the human senses seen by the computer is incomplete, missing a mouth, it’s very significant. Our device focusses mainly on the movement of the person increasing and decreasing his distance, in order to activate the movement of the mask, the lights to turn on, and the tones to play. We in return use our vision and listening capabilities to observe these reactions in order to further respond to them.
There were also some videos of interactive designs that were both entertaining yet medically useful, such as the video shown in class of the guys that created an alternative way to physical graffiti by developing a mental form. Which was used by someone who became paralyzed and could now only use his eyes to move. This design actually makes an impact on the life of the user, which is something that would be beautiful to design for our midterm project, however something like this, at this stage, is very difficult to realize.
We thus created our haunted house instead, by adding several elements. First, we thought of adding a reaction with red/yellow LED lights to engage with the user, and to create this Halloween, spooky atmosphere. We connected each of the ultrasonic rangers to a sperate breadboard to enable the possibility of different light reactions with different movements by the user. We added the second element by uploading a code of the tones of O’lantern by Beethoven, a spooky song. Before our user-testing session we didn’t have our third reaction yet, the moving skeleton mask. By adding a stepping motor beneath the mask, we were able to make it move slightly when one would come closer. In an actual haunted house, machines would be timed and programmed to make certain movements, they don’t engage with the public in order to activate these different functions and reactions. There is no communication between the device and its user. However, in our mini haunted house there is, maybe ever so slightly, but there definitely is. The user is able to engage with it and respond to it – as it where, to communicate with it. Which is something we really observed in the user-testing session.
The immediate benefits of our project would of course be: entertainment and an adrenaline boost. However, the long-term benefits, value and effects would be the stimulation of interaction and communication between humans and devices, not just in purpose of enhancing peoples’ life, fixing world problems, but also on smaller scale in the form of entertainment. It could be a great addition to the current attractions to build something more interactive, in order to decrease the distinction made between humans and robots. We expected with our project that people would become curious, excited, and slightly scared by our project, especially if placed in a different setting, in a dark hallway for example. Our haunted house is meant for people of all ages. For everyone who likes the rush of adrenaline that comes from fear, and for people that are curious and intrigued by interacting and communicating with technology in various ways.
We used quite simple material for the outer part of our haunted house: a carboard box. However, we searched for fall and Halloween elements to creatively put together something ‘sophisticated’ yet scary. We 3D printed the smaller pumpkin and added a bigger one. We would have liked to make a box with the laser cutting machine instead, if we had enough time. Our user testing session, as said before, influenced the design of our suggestive elements, such as the hands and the slogan, but also the addition of the 3rdreaction, the moving mask. People were entertained, but not yet frightened, which is why we chose to add a third element. We, of course, would have liked to have time to add more. Besides this, this a very small version of the haunted houses in theme parks, where everything is in human-size and extremely well designed, with a bigger budget and more time, of course.
Our goal was thus to create a haunted house with a variety of reactions between the user and our project. One the one hand, to entertain and frighten the user, and on the other hand, to stimulate the interaction between humans and robots (technological devices) with the use of our whole bodies. In my opinion, on a smaller scale, we succeeded in doing so. We entertained our users, perhaps frightened them (if in a different setting) and most importantly, we realized and increased the communication between humans and devices. It would even more so with more time, by adding more functions, and with more use of the fabrication opportunities. We learned to successfully design a 3D model after failing the first time, and we succeeded in coding multiple reactions onto our project. This midterm project has taught us a lot and gave us more definition on what interaction truly means, and why this is so important now and will continue to be in the future. Besides all other fields, the art and entertainment industry can really demonstrate the future’s more interactive collaboration between technology and humans.