Ripplecast (2008) attempts to provide a calm engagement and a chance to encounter nature in an interactive media art experience. As if the interactors were standing on the shore of a lake, the projected image of a still pond on the big gallery wall lies waiting for viewers. At first, the viewers may not notice why this image is displayed. Since it is displayed in a gallery, they may assume that it is an artwork as part of an exhibition, but they may think that it doesn’t seem to match with the semiotical reading of art photography or art videos. Yet, still they may still discover an open-minded feeling in front of the scene by looking at the imagery of the pond, which makes them feel as if they were in nature, in the countryside. From the moment they find three WiiRemote controllers with bright blue LED lights in a corner of the room, they can start to discover a connection between the controllers and the natural scene. A viewer may grasp one of the controllers and start to move it around as players do in Wii games. They may not get a response, since the interaction requires that they press a specific button to be able to interact with image. But occasionally some of them luckily are able to, or even accidentally, create a small ripple reflection on the surface of the pond. At that moment, they suddenly realize that they can skip stones over the still pond as if in front of water in nature.
In Ripplecast, the interaction with the WiiRemote is designed to mimic the movement of throwing stone that we do with our hands. Similar to the way we grip a real stone with our fingers, stretch our arms and release the stone from our fingers at the last moment, the interactor can trace a curved line in the air while holding the WiiRemote and pressing the big button on the bottom with his index finger, and finally release the button to release a virtual stone. As a result, ripples form on the surface of the still pond depending on where the interactor throws the stone. Based on the strength and degree of the throwing motion, the stone skips, making one or more hops. Certain movement, directions, and speeds are programmed to get better results. The tracking of the movement and speed of the WiiRemote is measured with its embedded accelerometer, and the data is wirelessly transmitted to a computer in a separate room via Bluetooth technology.
In the “Listening Machines” show at Eyedrum Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia on April 24th, 2008, and in the “Corresponding” Show at Song Art Gallery, Seoul, Korea, from July 28th to August 13th, 2008, the Ripplecast project was exhibited to the gallery audiences. With the spacious screen, the scenery itself already provided a natural feeling. When audiences noticed that they could cast the stone to make it skip on the pond’s surface, they became very excited about their unexpected experience in the gallery. Since WiiRemote interaction is easily designed and simply mimics the gesture of stone throwing, people easily followed and added their own experiences.
In order to make more bounces, people tended to make a big gesture in their interaction. However, the number of bounces is not linked only to the speed or direction of the movement. Since the WiiRemote is used at a distance from the screen and gestures are also made up in the air, the mappings between the gesture motion and the result of the interaction are not explicitly revealed to the viewer. Rather, we aim to invoke a reflective mode of user experience by leaving an element of arbitrariness in the cause and effect relationship. This suggests to the interactors that they should look back on their body and mind from a distance, and bring their own memories and experiences with nature to their current interaction with the piece. The optical perspective created by the image and the ripples as they recede towards the horizon creates an immersive experience for interactors and viewers alike.
With the current image, ripples can bounce only below the horizon line is (in the image there are boats on the horizon and the ripples bounce only below that line). Also, when the stone bounces towards the far side of the surface, the ripples are programmed to become smaller by applying geometric perspective. This kind of mapping provides viewers with a more realistic feeling in their interaction, and thus enhances their sense of immersion.
Currently, we have used a still image for the scene, but in the future it could be replaced with moving images in order to give interactors an even more realistic feeling. Also the sound of the stone bouncing on the surface of the water could be added to provide a more immersive and engaging feeling.