Left to right: Andrew Thong, Nathan Waddington and Anna Wu ready their crowd-controlled blimp for a public display at the Holland Park Olympic Celebration site.

Students up in the air at Olympic celebration site

February 4, 2010

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Interactive Arts and Technology (IAT) student Nathan Waddington has long dreamed of creating an object that could fly. He’s finally getting his chance this month with a crowd-controlled blimp inspired in part by the popular online game World of Warcraft.

Waddington, along with fellow students Andrew Thong, Anna Wu and Brian Quan, has created weBlimp, a remote-controlled blimp that moves about in response to the actions of people on the ground. It will be on display at the Holland Park Olympic Celebration site, close to the SFU Surrey campus, in February. Also on display at the site will be Futura, an interactive tabletop game created by IAT assistant professor Alissa Antle and her students.

WeBlimp, which is about 1.5 metres in size, was originally designed for a third-year IAT Body Interface course. Quan says the group was inspired partly by the Eye of Kilrogg, a free-flying entity in World of Warcraft that the player controls remotely from his character. "The end result is a blimp that is steered by shifting the collective weight of participants."

The weBlimp is similar, says Quan. "The participants react to what they see on a screen, and the blimp reacts to what the participants do. It’s an example of embodied interaction, which plays with scale and social interaction. It conceptually miniaturizes the participants and places them inside the blimp’s gondola."

View a video of WeBlimp

Antle describes Futura as "a multiplayer simulation game played on a multi-touch digital tabletop." Loosely based on the City of Vancouver and created with the help of graduate students Sijie Wang, Katie Seaborn, Josh Tanenbaum and Allen Bevans, the goal of the game is to work with the other players to support a growing population as time passes while minimizing negative impact on the environment.


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