Project Ace (Part 1)

POSTED BY Nick Thiel on Oct 22, 2012

Let’s turn the game ping pong on its head, and make something that’s as magical as it is fun.

When our team sat down to determine our next Hornall Anderson Experience (HAX) project we knew we were looking for something that integrated analog with digital. Sensor-based interaction, through touch or gesture, seemed like an obvious area for us to play. Ping pong has a natural rhythm and pattern to gameplay that verges on art. And the opportunity for interesting gameplay or artistic expression seemed boundless.

[Ping pong has a natural flow and rhythm of gameplay.]

The team locked themselves in the HAX lab for an entire day to brainstorm concepts. We arrived at multiple interesting approaches, ranging from rule-altering graphic enhancements that make the game more competitive to layers of sound and visuals that foster a more collaborative affair.

[Early sketch work from our brainstorms. Some ideas are better than others.]

We ultimately decided on a grid-based experience that would track the flight of the ball, as well as where the ball strikes the table. Dividing up the table into geometric regions seemed like a logical first step to building this experience, as well as a means of communicating the basic rules to a new player.

[Mapping gameplay to a grid structure.]

[Early motion study exploring ambient animation]

[Early motion study exploring ambient animation]

[This motion study exploring collaborative interaction combined with sound proved to be an interesting exploration.]

As expected, making it real was the hard part.

While envisioning how to bring this to life we considered Windows Kinect to track gameplay, but soon realized that frame rate, camera resolution as well as depth resolution were limiting factors to the technology. Other optical motion tracking devices, such as web cams, were also dismissed due to the relative size of the ball and the speed at which it travels. Tracking a ping pong ball is harder than it sounds. Despite these initial setbacks, our developer was confident we could find a solution to bring these concepts to fruition.

My next post will cover the evolution of creative and the exploration of the appropriate technology to bring this to life.


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Oct 23, 2012 at 9:25am

michael jackson couldn't beat it