The typical interactive surface does very little to engage our very fine touch senses. Our fingers reach out and find smooth glass, rather than objects. Finding new ways to integrate tangible interaction into digital experiences has long been a goal of Second Story’s.
While brainstorming ideas for a new collaborative table interactive experience we hit on the idea of using Sifteo cubes in tandem with Microsoft Surface. The Sifteo cubes are both tactile and interactive as well as aware of their position in space: you can shake them, tilt them, rotate them. The Surface is a multitouch table that can “see” what’s touching it.
The opportunity to combine these capabilities into one experience was too intriguing to pass up.
While the technical challenge was to combine the two different technologies, there was also the user experience challenge: What type of experience would suit the interaction between these small, peripheral devices and a multitouch table?
The answer evolved into Satellite, a collaborative musical table that link these intriguing new technologies: users play with the Sifteo cubes, turning them into “satellites” that communicate with the main unit.
The experience is fun, fluid, and creative: A planet is surrounded by four orbits, each of which represents a musical track. Placing a cube on an orbit claims the track. When the player presses the cube’s screen, a note appears. Tilting the cube in different directions changes the pitch of the note. The music evolves over time, forming an ephemeral, ambient composition that varies from polyrhythm to soothing melody, as the playhead sweeps across.
We’re fascinated with the potential of meshing digital interfaces with hybrid digital/tangible objects. The implications of groups using objects to interact with tables and each other are very exciting. While Satellite is a music-making experience, it’s just one in a galaxy of possible applications we look forward to exploring.