Thursday, 16 August 2012

Arduino R3 becomes a Puppet Controller!


What about if kids could create puppets with medical equipment that they could use as a controller for a game built with Unity 3D? 

Albert, 13 years old

              I've been working on the idea of creating a glove-controller with sensors that we could use as a controller to move around a projected terrain on a table while moving into the same space (terrain) into a Unity Project. In doing so, we could defuse the boundaries between digital (untouchable) and physical (touchable and tangible) play. Kids can create their own puppet-animal-controller (in relation with the animal they identify much more) and become part of a fantastic safari, using different materials as operating gloves, bandages, cotton, etc, to create their own puppet. Once the puppet is done, they play with it in any domestic, hospital or outside environment as they do in a non digital environment. While creating the puppet children not only go through a psychological process of desensitization but also stimulate, improve and explore their imagination, self-expression, creativity, self-esteem, and self awareness. They play the role of an animal from a safari that describes better their character, personality, behavior and feelings. At the same time children feel proud of having created their own 'toy', their own puppet, which they and any other people (friends, siblings, relatives, hospital or health center's staff) can use for playing in both environments, the tangible and the digital one. Also, children start playing and exploring bodily self expression and 'acting' while creating the puppet and start embodying movement, reaction and behaviors in a very playful and joyful way, in a very natural and entertaining way without being told.

They can explore different feelings such as power, strength,  anger, love, and express them through play in a constructive and imaginative way. They can also approach to medical equipment with a more positive, trustful, playfulness and fearless point of view and can start looking towards different realities created by the same object. In doing so, children are constructing new worlds, new forms, new realities and new ways of expression not only in their minds but also in their bodies. Hence, a hand is not moving anymore as a hand but also as a lion, an elephant, a giraffe, etc.

Why using then a Digital Platform ?

Using a digital platform allows children to feel much more outside the hospital environment, not physically speaking but helping them to 'fly' through their imagination. We create a magic landscape that they can explore and travel around. We give them a platform to enforce play, to improvise different stories and to increase the interrelation with other 'players' or 'travelers'. We offer them an environment to be creative and give them the chance not only to be part of a new world but, while playing around, create it and recreate it, giving us ideas of what children would like to find in this 'magic landscape' and keep developing it.

Another reason for using a digital platform is because it allows us to link together different 'small games' in a same platform. So we could link the 'magic landscape' with 'Laughter Tree' and move or pick up leaves as being an elephant (picking them with the trunk) and feed ourselves, and find out 'shadow puppets' animations reflected by the moon-shine at night. In other words, a digital environment give us the chance to create a bigger 'magic world' for the children to move around and entertain them through 'interactivity' ('real' and 'digital')and hence, to diffuse the boundaries between what actually 'real' and 'digital' play means. Children will be more immerse in a playful experience'  rather than in a 'definition' of what 'games' should be. 


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