Thursday, 22 April 2010

Urban Defender

Leaving the mark in the city is part of the identification process. The memory hels to orientate and shape a personal image of the city. The image is shape through the interaction and influenced by a whole palet of factors. On frequently used routes this memory is refreshed and sharpened where as it can fade in certain locations. The idea to mark a place as mine, yours or theirs can take a number of shape and we are all very familiar with the fences, walls and signs imposing restriction on everyday activities. However usually this becomes more obvious with temporary restrictions or abrupt changes. Groups and institutions can impose restrictions for other, but not only using fences. Gated communities are only one way to mark a wealthy area another solution is for example the house prices or not to provide public transport.
But also on a daily basis marks are left on the way. The graffiti or the tag on the wall, the carved name in the tube seat or the note on the toilet door. We can also leave the digital marks with Brightkite or now with Tales of Things leave a mark with a digital content.

Image taken from Urban Defender page / An earlier prototype and it's content.

A game developed at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste id picking up on this idea of marking the territory and let you play the city very much in the sense of social gangs. Urban Defender is a location aware ball game that lets you virtually mark urban elements by trowing the ball on the wall. The players get an audio and visual feedback from the ball on who 'owns' the feature and it can then be taken over.
"The ball itself is a prototype combination of an Arduino, Accelerometer, vibration motor, LEDs, XBee, batteries, and wire all packed inside of an industrial rubber gym ball." (hack a day) The idea is that via the GPS the bal is aware of its location and processes the data accordingly.
A detailed documentation of the construction and programming process can be found on the Urban Defender page.
However much you know would liket to go out and play, it is still a prototype. A few problems the developer team still has to solve. One is definitely the GPS. Having worked with the technology a bit, one would need an extremely good receiver to geta clear signal, for not talking about on witch side of the road you are throwing the bal at the wall. The urban environment is tricky for the GPS and reflections on tal facades can easily give you a wrong position.
Nevertheless, this is a gaming concept that captures the imagination and I would ove to see it developed further. Game On!

Found via Pop up City.

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