Channels is an immersive, paddling experience. This physical interface — a boat and water — can allow you to actually row through virtual 3D space, using the very real actions of paddling. You can change direction the same way you would in a real boat: By rowing more on one said than the other. You can slow down the same way, as well. But, most importantly, you can ease forward, exploring this lake and finding the small surprises in the environment.

The physical interface is a small paddle boat, with two big buckets of water on the sides, which are essentially the controllers. Moving the water backward will ease you forward; moving it forward will ease you backward. The speed is determined by the sum of both sensor readings.

The direction of the users movement is determined by a simple function. It is:

right sensor – left sensor = direction

So if the right side is rowing faster, you’ll go left (like in a real boat) — and vice versa.

There is a projector at the front of the boat, as well as speakers.

Here’s the physical interface, showing the water bucket.

Here’s the interface from the back:

This concept was very clear in my head when we started, and it was carried throughout the project. I created the core of this program in ICM, but I wanted an interface which allowed the user to go through space using a physical motion.

However, a few obstacles were:

  1. Building the boat: We didn’t know how we would build the physical structure. But thanks to some help from a teacher, we we able to create a frame and screw it together while bending the wood at a nice angle. There is a cut-down stool used as the seat.
  2. The sensor: We looked for several flow switches. But then we had a small epiphany: Using a flex sensor! With a spoon attached to it! But because the sensor did not provide much resistance to the fast-flowing water, we put a clear plastic sheet over the back to slow it down.
  3. The environment: Coloring the environment was up for debate, but we settled on muted colors, mostly because we didn’t have time — or the skill sets — to create a neat and interactive color world.

In the end, I think we accomplished what we set out to do: Creating a paddling experience that is relaxing, while using a physical water interface.

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