an interactive play space in which participants wield magic wands and practice wizardry
Marije Kanis, Stefan Agamanolis
Magic wands have a presence in the history and legends of human
cultures from thousands of years ago all the way to the present day.
They are simple objects that respond to human gesture, speech,
emotion, and even thought, and thanks to books and movies, they are
widely understood from an early age as symbols of great empowerment.
As such, the magic wand presents an interesting design opportunity as
a form for a tangible computer interface. In addition to exploring
the technology needed to build a magic wand interface, The WANDerful
Alcove focuses on role-immersion scenarios in which these interfaces
can have a socially transforming effect on their users, serving as a
catalyst for ad-hoc interaction and collaboration in a story
The WANDerful Alcove consists of two magic wands and a large
projection of a story scene consisting of a tree in an enchanted
landscape. Each wand has a different magic power associated with it.
Spectators who enter the alcove and pick up a wand can make something
happen in the scene immediately by gesturing with a wand -- either
lighting strikes or explosions depending on which wand is wielded.
Just as a real wizard student would, the participant must learn what
kinds of movements to make, what kind of rhythm to use, and even what
words to say in order to create the right magic. With some
experimentation, the novice wizard will gain skills in the use of the
wand and learn special magic gestures that cause a more controlled
reaction in the story scene, either the creation of a rain storm or
the emergence of the sun.
Instead of competition and mutual destruction, the story concept was
designed to encourage and reward ad-hoc collaboration between multiple
wizards. The participant is challenged to be physically active,
focusing not only on his own actions but also on that of the others,
to share magic power and create something beautiful together. For
example, if two wizards collaborate and perform their special gestures
at the same time, a rainbow emerges from the sky.
We are exploring a variety of technologies to enable the recognition
of gestures the wand user would learn as well as the kinds of gestures
that people intuitively understand they should make with a magic wand.
Our first prototype included tilt switches embedded in natural tree
branches. The latest prototype incorporates position and orientation
sensors, wireless communication, and speech recognition.
We are also working on other interaction scenarios and story concepts
that further explore ways to enhance a sense of immersion in a role
and to encourage social contact and collaboration between people
who otherwise may not have interacted with each other. Some of these
scenarios could include more than two and possibly a very large number
of magic wands, in which power may be shared and combined in different
ways to create particular effects as in our first prototype.
We wish to thank Cati Vaucelle and Glorianna Davenport
of the Story Networks group
for their contribution to the creation and first phase of this
project. Thanks also to Brian McDonald for his assistance in
developing the wireless version of the magic wand.
Publications and Links
The WANDerful Alcove was exhibited at e-culture fair 2,
Amsterdam, 23 - 24 October 2003.
Marije Kanis, Stefan Agamanolis, Cati Vaucelle, and Glorianna
Davenport, The WANDerful Alcove: Encouraging constructive social
interaction with a socially transforming interface, Proceedings
of INTERACT 2003 International Conference on Human-Computer
Interaction, Zurich, 1 - 5 September 2003, IOS Press. (PDF)