|.||.||M.E.E.T Projects-Story Machine 2000||.|
Story Machine 2000
(authors: Doris Vila, Dave Weinstein(c)(BEC) with Peter Serocka, Aeldrik Pander and others). On display 1.6. - 31.7.2000
"Story Machine" is a stage on which visitors can walk. Interactive graphic animations and video sequences are projected onto its three walls and its floor. The participants, usually a group of six children, influence the set-up of the game area, the way the story goes on, and the image and sound projections.
A cubic, completely darkened room was chosen as a basic framework for the technical inner structure. Inside this cube, a square stage was erected. It is bordered on each side by three movable projection surfaces attached to axles running parallel to the edge of the stage, like the pages of a book, and by a fixed main projection surface. The actual stage is a square area bordered by projection surfaces(sometimes flexible) on three sides, with an opening at the front for people to enter and leave. For the floor and frontal projections, as well as the projections on the "wings" at the side, seven projectors are used. These are mounted mainly in the ceiling of the outer cube and function using a mirror deflection system. The sound is heard over 24 loudspeakers positioned at the edges and in the ceiling of the outer cube, 2 speakers mounted on the front projection surface, and a vibrating base under the 4x4 meter action surface. Microphones to receive the vocal commands are set up on each side of the front projection surface, cameras for motion and position analysis are to be found above and behind the action area. The scene is lit with infrared light. The children wear baseball caps fitted with an infrared reflector.
The children, in a team of six "pilots", enter the spaceship in the darkened room. By carrying out spontaneous group actions, they determine the destination and course of their journey: into the blue depths of the ocean, through a red-hot volcano into the inside of the earth, or into the endless expanse of space.
They explore their destination, overcome numerous obstacles together, find valuable help (a swarm of eyes that takes on the job of guide), and finally return home. The way they act as a group always determines their experiences during this journey. Everyone contributes to collecting the necessary "energy" (visualized by a myriad of colorful triangles, whose motion parameters can be influenced, on the wings/book pages) to reach the destination. Spontaneous, cooperative actions and joint navigation play the most important role in the proceedings.
A visit to the installation forms part of an entire program. First of all, a "pilot training course" is held by a media and theatre specialist:
- Forming a team/What is important for a good team?/Team names
- Navigation practice (active games in which it is important to pay attention and react to one another/training movements and series of movements that are important for navigation in the Story Machine)
- Practicing vocal commands
- Games based on the three possible worlds
The children are met at the door of the darkened theatre and taken around the flying object. They are given their individual pilot badges and the baseball caps with infrared reflectors that are needed for monitoring motion and position. Finally, they meet their companion on the voyage, Vortek.
After they have returned, the children can watch the other teams in the Story Machine from the control room. They can produce photographs of the teams in a digital photo studio, and learn to set up lighting, process the photos and mount them against the backgrounds of the worlds visited. The children also create an account of their journey using the art and craft materials supplied.
The visit ends with a discussion and a guided tour with the children. They see the Story Machine lit up, learn about the computer techniques needed for it, and gain insights into the way it functions (for example, sound and motion recognition).
In a study with the title "Children and Young People in Interactive, Multimedial Space," the Office for Future Research NRW has examined the effectivity of the project and inquired about the satisfaction levels of the target group. Over 200 children were asked about their experiences with "Story Machine." The authors of the project were also asked about their ideas and the way these were put into action. The study concludes with a comprehensive description of the technical possibilities and potential applications of using separate components of multi-media installations for cultural education in youth work without too much trouble or at too high a cost.
The questions posed to the children and young people concern basic aspects of "Story Machine": the multidimensional use of sound and images, the more or less self-explanatory way the installation functions, the inclusion of the body and the senses, and the possibility of experiencing and influencing the development of the story together with other users. The feedback from those involved in the study was for the most part positive. The integration of holistic perception through movement, sound, and the use of the voice, and the presence of three-dimensional elements contribute greatly to the installation's being "perceived by some of the children and young people as an almost perfect replica of reality," as the study says. When giving their final assessment, the children stressed the group experience more than any other factor. This shows, as many other studies also do, that children neither desire isolation in front of the screen nor find it positive.