Motivation

Interactive technology provides a powerful and compelling medium for inspiring and attracting students to pursue careers in computer science and information technology. Even more compelling is an immersive environment in which participants are easily involved. Interactive exhibits and hallways have been installed successfully in a range of locations, including museums, schools and even airports, with a range of applications, varying from simple amusement to dispersal of information to games inspiring community interaction and gathering.

Project Description

INTERACT WITH YOUR SURROUNDINGS:

During the winter, passersby will find themselves surrounded by fluffy snowdrifts projected on the walls and will create virtual snowballs that can be rolled around to construct snowmen. When spring arrives, students will be delighted to feed baby caterpillars by plucking leaves from virtual trees; butterflies will hatch from cocoons when someone creates a circle around them with their arms. Surfaces that respond to touch, similar to the iPhone, will allow students to play games and interact with virtual environments through natural, tactile controls. The possibilities are endless, fueled by the creativity of the developers.

MULTIPLE TYPES OF DISPLAYS:

At Mount Holyoke, two interactive systems have been installed in the Computer Science hallway: one wall and one floor. From the execution standpoint, IHart’s strengths rely on two main features:

  1. Simple installation into a hallway
  2. Quick and easy development environment for new interactive applications

To achieve these, the project draws on the widely-used paradigm of camera-projector system, the newly emerging technology of touch surfaces, and the popular Adobe Flash application development environment.

USER-FRIENDLY AND INEXPENSIVE

A camera-projector system consists of an inexpensive web camera and a projector to create an interactive environment on any surface, including walls and floors. This results in an unobtrusive and immersive experience for anyone walking through the hallway. Touch surface technology has recently emerged as an exciting interactive technology appealing to a wide audience, made popular by devices such as the iPhone. Adobe Flash allows students to quickly develop interactive applications, achieving a polished final look without requiring prior background in programming or computer science.

While commercial systems do exist, their cost is prohibitive for widespread adoption of the technology. IHart creates an open source SDK that offers access to the latest computer vision technology by using the OpenCV2 library, building upon it to create an API for development of Flash applications. The API uses an event architecture, remaining consistent with traditional mouse and keyboard interaction, so that students can adapt quickly to the new infrastructure. Similar SDKs already exist for touch table interfacing with Flash.