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REXplorer: Magic as historical explanation metaphor

Category: Smart Objects
Tags: augmented reality, location, magic, museum, smart objects, ubicomp, ubiquitous computing

Technorati tags: augmented reality, location, magic, museum, smart objects, ubicomp, ubiquitous computing

Researchers and designers at Aachen University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have a magical user experience design project called REXplorer. As described in their paper entitled REXplorer: A Pervasive Spell-Casting Game for Tourists as Social Software,

REXplorer is a pervasive and mobile spell-casting game designed for tourists of Regensburg, Germany. The game platform blends location services, mobile photo and video blogging, and phonecam-based interactions to create a fantasy world that brings the history and culture of Regensburg to light. REXplorer applies mobile social software concepts to enhance the game and tourist experience.

They go on to describe the game:

The basic premise of the game is that the historic buildings of Regensburg have magical spirits, secrets, and treasures locked inside of them that can be unleashed with the proper magical spell.

Magic spells are cast with a wand that consists of a mobile phone in a plastic shell, which is running custom software that uses gestural recognition of the motion of the video from the phone's camera to identify certain basic movement shapes, which then invoke "ghosts" that talk about the city's history. The game aspect takes the magical metaphor to a greater extent than I've seen before:

[...] players hear voices from magical spirits trapped inside the buildings through their magic wand (the loudspeaker on the smartphone). If they cast the spell incorrectly, the spirits will be disgruntled and uncooperative. If they cast the spell correctly, the spirits will open up to the participants and divulge stories from the past that contain elements to help lead them on their path to master wizard. Participants may also need to duel against other participants in a spell-casting battle to achieve their goals.

It's a great, thought-through and exciting project. The use of magic as a interaction metaphor in a Medieval town as the backdrop is perfect. Judging from the video, the technical execution is also impressive. Great stuff.

I'll be updating my Magic in UX bibliography momentarily.

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