Utapia, A CAVE + Tap Experience
Do you like magic? Do you envy the power of mother nature? Do you want to change the weather by just snapping a finger?
Introducing “Utapia”, a CAVE + Tap experience where you have control of the world.
“Utapia” is an emotional experience where the guest inside the CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) can interact with the environment, in this case, change time and weather, by doing some simple gestures like waving a hand, clenching a fist, or snapping a finger.
Utapia is a virtual world we want to create using the CAVE system and Tap device. It’s an interactive art installation where the guest can gain an immersive experience and communicate with the virtual world by tapping fingers.
The current use cases and the prototypes our team has made so far are mainly focused on utility, like using it as an input device for games, typing Chinese character with it, etc. This prototype has a different vision: we want to explore how can Tap be used in a more artistic and emotional way.
Meet CAVE, which stands for cave automatic virtual environment. CAVE creates a virtual environment with three or more walls acting as giant monitors, offering an extremely immersive experience. Guests can move around in the space CAVE created without being limited by headsets or wires.
A drawback for the immersive experience for CAVE is that in CAVE you cannot touch the wall to interact with the world, you need a controller, and that feels just unnatural in the virtual space. Imagine, you are in a fairy tale, chasing horses and unicorns in the magic woods, but you are holding two high-tech plastic controllers in your hand, that just brings you out of the story.
In this CAVE + Tap experience, the guest will enter the CAVE, sitting in the middle of three walls, and put his/her hand on a desk. The walls will display images of a raining night in a small village, where people are quietly sleeping. There will also be sounds of raindrops and some other noises, whatever sound you will hear on a raining night.
The guest will wear the Tap device on whatever hand he/she is comfortable with. When the guest taps a finger on the desk, lightning will strike, starting from the sky, it will light up the village for a second, with the sound of thundering, wind blowing, etc.
In this experience, we want to guest to really connect with the virtual world we create for them, be present in that scene and time. We expect the guest to communicate with the world by tapping his/her fingers and hear the world hellos back.
The best way to connect Tap to Windows is by using a Bluetooth adapter. After plugging the adapter into the computer, go to windows settings and find “Bluetooth & other devices”, click “Add Bluetooth or other devices”. Turn on Tap by pressing the button on your thumb finger, you’ll find a device called “Tap_XXXXXX” in the device list, click it and it will connect Tap to your computer.
In the CAVE, however, when the guest goes inside the CAVE wearing Tap, it’s very easy for the Bluetooth to lose connection with Tap. The distance between Tap and the Bluetooth adapter is a factor, also there are many metal frames in the CAVE, which further weakens the connection.
What we did was to use a USB extension cable for the Bluetooth adapter. We put it in a place where it’s close enough to build a robust connection between the computer and Tap, but not too close to interrupt the guest experience.
By using Tap as the input device in the CAVE, we want to create an experience so immersive that people can never forget.
The advantage of Tap is that it’s really light, you cannot even feel it after you’ve put it on for a while. You don’t need to hold anything, you don’t need to press any button or trigger, all you need to do is tap, easy as that. By reducing the complexity of control, we can set the guests’ mind more on the story and emotion we want them to feel.
The disadvantage is that the interactions Tap can do is limited, and it’s not that accurate when it comes to specific gestures. Utapia is a simple experience where all the gestures trigger the same event. We are not sure if it would work as well if the story gets more complicated and needs more interactions.
In general, we see Tap as a great input device for the CAVE. There are so many potentials for this combination. However, we do not recommend using Tap as the only input device for a CAVE experience that involves complicated interactions, the accuracy problem will hurt the experience.