Froggies by Josh Nimoy, Spring 2004
Toy Design Workshop, Danny Rozin, ITP

Froggies is a play-testing prototype for a children's digital play environment. A table with a screen embedded into the surface acts as an arena for virtual life. Children react with the virtual life by placing various symbolic markers on the table and sliding them around. The result is a musical rythm of animal noises.

User Scenario
A child walks up to a child-height table. The table is glowing light blue. The child picks up a green plastic lilly pad and places it onto the table. A frog appears and makes a "ribbit" noise whose pitch depends on how far the frog is jumping. The child moves several other pieces onto the table and watches different creatures dancing and making harmonious music.

Placing different pieces on the table will bring different animals. These pieces were custom laser cut from transparent tinted acrylic.

A frog jumps in a path determined by closest neighboring lilly pads. One ribbit noise is made as the frog begins jumping.

Now here is the motion of the creature.

Many different pieces on the table at once will create an ensemble of different animals.

Augmented Reality Background
It has been hard for toy companies to bridge their traditional physical toy products with their videogame products. Even though the two microcosms have grown to be equally large, they have not been able to benefit from each others play-values. In this demonstration, augmented reality is used to involve physical game pieces with videogame-style animals. It is augmented reality for children. My main influence for doing this project comes from the "Illuminating Lamp" project by John Underkoffler at the MIT Media Lab in 1999 wherein desktop objects are enhanced with projected mensurational data to assist desktop tasks. This project is also based on user research collected from the BallDroppings contagious art project.

Future Change - More animals
This is the obvious question of content quantity. More game pieces can be added over time as more creatures are programmed into the software. Eventually, the experience should become one of "collecting" as in Pokemon.

Future Change - Vary the behaviors
It quickly becomes boring and one-dimensional that each animal follows its according shape, and that the only difference between them is merely imagery and sound data. Perhaps the depth of the toy would increase if each animal had unique programming (or unique programmability).

Future Change - Virtual vs. Physical
The oncreen creatures are currently photo cut-outs of animals, animated with lifelike motion to follow dynamic targets. However, the physical objects outside of the screen are also quite digital. They are purposefully transparent for color tracking purposes, and they are stylized symbols - particularly in the case of the cheese. They are uniform in size. Why not work to make the physical objects more life-like?

Future Change - Why use cameras?
The current camera/screen setup was used initially as a medium for rapid interaction prototyping and user testing. The prototype was built in order to get initial user testing and feedback from the development community. In the future, these toys would probably be better marketed as mechanical wheeled devices that communicate with sensors and RF. This would drastically reduce the cost of mass production as the new setup would no longer require a television or camera calibration. However, prototyping such a method would be out of my current research budget.

//May 11-12

Froggies will be on display for public interaction at ITP Spring Show.

Froggies as game console (VRWheels)
A console is the name given to videogame core systems - the most expensive item in a video game toy set. After purchasing the console, further purchases of less commitment can be made to add more content to the console. After you buy a Nintendo, you buy some game cartridges for it. If Froggies were used as a sort of console, each game cartridge would probably come with a bag of extra pieces that are unique to that software. The following diagrams were done exploring the movements of a virtual race car around small plastic cones and stop lights. This car world would be in addition to Froggies
as a seperate content package.

Technical Information

Inside the table is a CRT screen. A firewire camera is used by a Mac to detect the positions of each game piece on the table. The camera is mounted overhead, attached to the table. The software then moves the according animal in a path determined by each of its matching game pieces, resulting in a repeating musical rythm. The software is written in Macromedia Director for the Mac, using WebCamXtra/Myron for vision processing.

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