The Game: Gooey, Spikey, and Fluffy Bubbles

See us at Maker Faire!
Art/Mo/Sphere is a rochambeau style game that involves virtual bubbles colliding and popping to create art! When the two players blow into their Bubble Wands, virtual bubbles appear on the screen and move fast or slow depending on the intensity of the blowing. Rotating the wands left or right changes the direction that the bubbles will travel in. When certain types of bubbles from one wand collide with those of the other, they pop and leave a paint splotch across the screen. The resulting exploded bubble splotches leave a beautiful image of abstract action art, a virtual homage to Jackson Pollack!

In our game, "Spikey" bubbles pop "Gooey" ones, "Gooey" defeats "Fluffy," and "Fluffy" bubbles take out the "Spikey" ones! Players change the style of their bubbles by dipping their wands into corresponding buckets. Players can collaborate and try to influence the pattern of paint splotches, or they can compete to see who can pop more of the other's bubbles!

About Art/Mo/Sphere: The Inspiration

Soap bubbles are a common and accessible childhood plaything. Bubble wands are used to transfer breath into bubbles of various sizes. Our Art/Mo/Sphere project explores the metaphor of the bubble wand as an interface to a computer system that creates art in a playful way.

Traditional soap bubbles are simple, beautiful, and capture the attention of those who play with them. Art/Mo/Sphere is not an attempt to replace natural soap bubbles - instead, it provides a familiar interface for people to create computed objects that can interact in unique ways!

The Art/Mo/Sphere game is not the only application of our Virtual Bubble Wands... they can be used as an interface to many types of applications that involve a breath sensitive interface! Imagine controlling virtual sailboats with "wind," or to control a virtual dandelion!

Download our final project paper here.

How Does It Work?

The wands measure blowing using a plastic tab that moves when air passes over it. The plastic tab opens a latch with a photocell in it - the harder a player is blowing, the more light the photocell receives. Thus, the wands are light sensitive and don't work very well in the dark. Each wand contains an accelerometer to monitor its position as. The wands are connected to Arduino boards that, after a little processing, passes the position and blowing input via USB cable to a PC running the Art/Mo/Sphere software.

The "buckets" are simply conductive bowls that complete a circuit when the bubble wand touches them, signaling to the Arduino that a new bubble style has been selected.

The game software is written in Java, and uses the Java3d interface to OpenGL to render beautiful, CGI bubbles. After we work on the code to clean it up a little more, we will release the source code!

Who Made It?

Art/Mo/Sphere was made by UC Berkeley I School students Ashley Kayler, Michael Manoochehri, and Laura Paajanen for our final project in Professor Kimiko Ryokai's 2008 "Theory and Practice of Tangible User Interfaces" course.

What's Next?

Future development might include replacing the photocell-based wind meter with a microphone, or an actual fan-based wind sensor. After observing how physical and excited the players were getting while playing, we plan on making the wands more robust. Also, we plan on making the game more visually interesting, by adding more spinning and detail to our 3D bubbles! And, we would love to be selected as an exhibitor in the 2009 Maker Faire!

In the News

Art/Mo/Sphere and many other TUI 2008 projects, were featured here:
Tangible fun at UC Berkeley's virtual projects, San Francisco Chronicle
KTVU Coverage of the TUI Open House, KTVU San Francisco

Contact Us

Send us an email, or contact us at the UC Berkeley iSchool:
School of Information
University of California, Berkeley
102 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
(510) 642-1464

The Course: Tangible User Interfaces

A considerable amount of research has been done in the domain of Tangible User Interfaces, a new approach to HCI which focuses on physical interaction with computational media. This course will explore the theoretical framework of tangible user interfaces through a series of design examples to compare and contrast. Read more here.

About the UC Berkeley I School

The MIMS program at UC Berkeley's School of Information is a multidisciplinary Master's Degree program which explores the connections between people, information, and technology. For more information, visit the I School's website.