Moving the Dome Home

Costumes as Game Controllers, Eyebeam, NYU-Poly Game Innovation Lab

In preparation for EyeBeam’s latest Computational Fashion exhibition, Kaho’s custom-built game dome took a trip from the Game Innovation Lab in Brooklyn all the way out to it’s new home at Eyebeam, in Manhattan.  Despite the size of the dome, the process of taking down and then reconstructing the dome is quite simple!  The dome itself is one large piece of fabric (formerly 3 pieces) sewn together by Kaho, a set of tent poles, a lightweight rope, and a dome-shaped mirror to properly size the images coming from the projector.

The dome is held up by standard tent poles organized into “ribs” and “spines.”  The dome has three spines running from top to bottom and six ribs running from side to side.  Tent poles fit into nice little sleeves (or, seams, I guess) along the dome, and they slide in and out of the sleeves just like normal tent poles would on a normal tent.

This process was relatively quick, especially once we got the hang of bending the tent poles. We simply slid tent poles out of their sleeves, one spine by spine and then rib by rib until the dome was a big pile of white fabric.  Because a few poles have been cut to fit the dome, each spine/rib was kept in a separate pile and labeled based on where it was (left, right, center spine and 1st-6th rib).  After removing the poles we simply folded the fabric, put the mirror into a box, and tied the poles into a bunch!  We had 3 people working on the process, and the three of us comfortably transported the entire dome on the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Fun fact: One person can carry all of the dome materials at once!

The Rebuild:
While we took the dome apart starting with the spines, we put it back together starting with the ribs.  This process took slightly longer (maybe 60 minutes compared to the 40 min deconstruction), but went up easily.

Coming Soon:
Full Dome dimensions w/diagrams and photos so you can make your own dome!

Costumes as Game Controllers: Lightning Bug Game Projection Testing

Costumes as Game Controllers, Face-to-face Games, tweeted!

I am a huge fan of cinema, and I like projection mapping and know of the magic projections can do, but I have never been on the development side of the experiences. To make the Lightning Bug game, I originally envisioned a large dome with the hope to make the experience more immersive for the players. Note in this sketch that the projectors are on the outside of the dome.


At the point in the project, I think half a dome, a quarter of a sphere, should be enough. Concentrating on the half dome will make it exponentially easier to make it a full dome later. I don’t know enough about projections and to take small steps is the saner route to take.

I will be fabricating the dome myself, keeping in mind portability and stability. I need to travel with the dome, and so it needs to be lightweight and collapsible. It needs to also be stable enough so that we can create some kind of consistency with the projection so that it can be set up anywhere. The dome will probably be some kind of stretch fabric with conduits for flexible plastic rods, kind of like a tent. I am not sure what the flexible plastic rod material would be, so right now let’s call them “bones”.

Fortunately, my good friend Kyle Li is working with me on the projection part of the game. He’s got experience working on projected installations and dome projections too. He’s amazing! Last week, at our first meeting Kyle suggested a few alternative ways to project on to the dome. One way is to project from the inside against a curved mirror. This is a good alternative, because the seams on the screen won’t block out the projection, because the “bones” would be on the outside. There is also the option to projection from the inside without mirrors, but the players could interfere with the projection, depending on where the projector is and how high the projected image would be on the dome surface.


Yesterday Kyle and I had our second meeting, and we tried a paper miniature version of the dome. Kyle took some amazing photos of the various options. The two tree models represent the 2 players.



I am so excited about where this is going. The next steps in the actual projection testing will take place inside the large space that Eyebeam is going to let me use for the last several days of this month. In the meantime, I need to do more research about the following to prepare to work in the large space:

  • Calculating and making 2D patterns for the gores, sections on the dome. I was using a parachute calculator on the internet, but I soon found out parachute domes are not exactly what I am looking for. *fail*
  • Researching fabric. Will probably go to the fabric stores in the garment district and look for a semi-opaque material that is tough, possibly stretchy and white.
  • Researching materials for “bones”

Lightning Bug Game (Work in Progress as of April 2013)

Costumes as Game Controllers

Lightning Bug Game

This game is a work in progress, scheduled to be completed in October 2013 by Kaho Abe, the Artist in Residence at the NYU-Poly Game Innovation Lab in collaboration with Katherine Isbister.  The Development phase prior to October is funded by Eyebeam Art & Technology Center through the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund. This post has been created to show the progress of the game as of April 2013.

The Lightning Bug Game is based on a story about a fantastical world of Lightning Bugs. The once peaceful home of the Lightning Bugs is under attack by the smoggy Clouds of Darkness, threatening to overtake the pure air and water around them. Only a few lightning bugs are left — two must now cooperate together to fight off the evil Dark Clouds to save their home. This interactive installation is an immersive two-person cooperative digital game.

Preliminary Research & Inspirations


I’m currently exploring ways in which technology can be embedded into costumes, to add the functionality of a game controller. In most of the digital games we play, there are on-screen avatars controlled by the player. We play the game through the avatar, and often feel emotionally connected to it. But imagine if the player, by wearing a costume, could not only change their appearance to resemble a character in the game, but could also use the costume to play the game itself? I wonder how this would affect the user’s play. Would it draw them into a more compelling, fully-realized world?

We can already see examples of this kind of immersive experience in live-action role playing games and cosplay—an expression of the desire to fully inhabit a character in the story. While, of course, the mechanics of a game are also important, I believe that this act of stepping into a role, transforming from regular person to fantastical superpowered hero, is also a crucial process to consider when creating an immersive experience. Culturally, the act of putting on a costume is often seen as a process of transformation; costumes can signify sense of power that wasn’t there before — think of Superman and Wonder Woman. In combination with costumes, ritualized gestures can also help the process of transformation—as in this transformation scene from the “Kamen Rider” Japanese television series.

Gameplay and Physical Interaction


For the last several years my objective has been to make games which utilize technology to encourage face to face interaction. While many digital interactions of today are face-to-screen and can seem isolating, I ultimately believe that technology is a tool that it can be harnessed to enhance face-to-face interactions. The Lightning Bug game requires two players to cooperate with each other in order to battle the Dark Clouds. During the game, players will rely not only on communicating through talking, but also through eyes, body language and touch. It can be said that in this game, technology becomes a secondary element that helps to amplify the ultimate objective of the game — to create an exciting, immersive face-to-face game experience.

One player plays the role of the shooter, wearing a spikey gauntlet, while the other player plays the role of the collector, accumulating power in the power capsule back pack. In order to distribute the power from the power capsule to the shooter, the players must hold hands. This type of physical interdependecy in order to play the game is a key feature.




Current prototypes of the costumes have been made using the Makerbot Replicator2 3D printer and laser cutting foam. Each prototype is embedded with an Android phone and an IOIO board. This allows the use of the accelerometer and wireless communications in the phone while turning the LED lights on and off and the use of additional sensors which can be added to the IOIO board.

Projection and other Technology

The two players will be immersed in a projected environment. Computer vision will be used to track where the shooter is aiming. A combination of Processing and Unity will be used, networked with the Android phones, to create the digital game space.

Wearable Technology for Clothing & Wearable Technology for Games

Costumes as Game Controllers

My graduate school thesis written in 2005 is a user interface for wearable technology called Discreet Interfaces. Its basic idea revolved around making the technology that is embedded into the garment as noninvasive as possible both by sight and by touch. Therefore, the switches which controlled the technology were hidden, and the materials I used for connectors were as close to any type of material that would be found on traditional clothing. Discreet Interfaces was designed to not disrupt the social messages that our clothes carry, while still wearing embedded technology, and made clothing with technology feel just like clothing without it.

When it comes to games, however, the desired effect is the complete opposite — we want the wearer to be aware that she’s wearing it. We want her to feel that drastic difference between being a normal person and someone who posses super powers (See previous blog entry). In order to achieve this, we create something that looks out of the ordinary, and feels out of the ordinary.

The Ninetendo Power Glove is a wonderful example of Wearable Technology in games. In its ads, it looks futuristic  (armor-like), charged with power (added electrical spark effects), and very cool (worn with Risky Business Ray-Ban sun glasses). It will change you as soon as you wear it. “Once you put it on, everything else becomes child’s play.”


Costumes as Game Controllers: Costumes, Power & Transformation

Costumes as Game Controllers

For my new project involving Costumes as Game Controllers, I’ve been doing a lot of preliminary research. I want to take full advantage of costumes as a form of wearable technology in order to heighten the immersive game experience. I have been approaching this project from many sides: conceptual, aesthetic and technological, and it’s been quite exciting and at times an overwhelming experience, even though it’s just begun. This will be the first in a series of posts on this blog updating my progress.

When I worked briefly in costumes design in film and theater, I realized how important costumes were for the overall story. What an actor wears is one of the many powerful tools that help tell the story. Not only is this true from the audience’s point of view but also it was crucial for the wearer too, by helping her fall into the role better and “feel” more like the character in the script. This is my starting point.

Costumes and Power

Halloween is around the corner. It’s a perfect time to start thinking about costumes and what they represent. Super hero costumes are popular, because as an adult or child, it’s easy to idolize these characters with super human strengths. Just look at online stores selling Halloween costumes  — you can’t go far without seeing Superman, Spiderman and Batman costumes. When thinking of Costumes and Power, super heroes are the first thing that come to mind for me. A silky red cape, a brightly colored muscle-hugging suit with matching tights, and the large “S” on the chest are familiar to many as something that is worn by Superman when he is using his super powers. When he’s not Superman, he wears very normal, boring clothing hiding his true strengths.

Clark Kent with normal clothes.

Superman with cape and suit.

So during Halloween, as the kid wearing the costume can feel like a super hero, as the actor wearing her costume feels more like her part, the wearer can feel powerful donning a costume that embodies power.


It’s not just about the worn costume that can emphasize the power that the wearer holds, but the process of transformation from a regular person to someone who posses special powers can also add to the notion of power. There is a word for this in Japanese. It’s “henshin” (変身)which literally means “transforming the body”, but in the context of anime and super-heroes, it also includes the transformation of clothes.

The Japanese TV series, Kamen Rider, is a great example of “henshin.” In this video clip, there are henshins after henshins of past Kamen Riders. Pay attention to the changing of costumes. Kamen Rider Riderman (1:01) is particularly interesting because the act of putting on his mask triggers the transformation.

Gestures and Poses too!

These examples also remind me how important gestures are to show power. The gestures in Kamen rider are large and quick, and are obviously a important part of the henshin process. Superman also uses gestures and poses to express power. Gestures and poses can be used in addition to costumes.