Date: December 2017 - Now
Project Type: Team project
Member: Tatsuya Kato, Shion Ito, Toshikatsu Nakamura, Toshiki Sato
Location: Chofu-shi, Tokyo, Japan
My role: Industrial design, concept design, contents design
This project was a collaboration between my home university, Musashino Art University, and The University of Electro-Communication (UTC). Our goal was to create a device that later would be presented at Human-Computer Interaction conferences. Both university students built up some mixed teams and made their own concepts. My team explored the potential of 3D display features providing a new type of gaming experience. And eventually, we created UPLIGHT, a game console with a wide-angle projector that allows game worlds to be projected on the surfaces of a rotatable 3D display. Users are provided with a unique way to interact with the console. To see what is happening on all sides of the 3D display, users can move their viewing position or use a handheld controller to bring the visual to them without having to move. With this game design, we won BEST Technological Game Award in Tokyo Game Show.
Investigate the potential of 3D objects in game contents
We started the project thinking about how to reimagine the portable game console experience. Traditionally, portable game consoles provide a fixed viewing experience. While some companies have tried to expand upon this, our goal was to take this to the next level and provide a completely new experience.
In our project, we had a hypothetical concept that when viewing the 3D display from one position, there is always a hidden area which can be called the blind area. The blind area stimulates the imagination of what might be on the other side and encourages people to go and look at it. If we make use of the blind area, we could create game content that provides players with a more active and intriguing experience.
Generate knowledge through design
Our final goal was to gather new knowledge about the use of the new game console and compile them into an academic paper. Thus we took an iterative approach to figure out what game contents and interactions are possible. We started with ideation of possible game contents and according to this, we defined required functionality such as the number of buttons. After that, we developed a prototype and conducted a user test with it. After this four-step process, we came back to content ideation phase again.
1. Discussion about possible game contents
We discussed possible game contents and made more than 30 ideas in total. Below images are examples. At this stage, we focused on the possible contents within the cubic-shaped display while we embraced other possible forms like sphere shape. After this step, we realized that there are roughly two types of play style between the player and the game console. One is non-automatic revolving. Players change their perspectives by themselves to see the sides of the display which they can’t see. In this play style, the player can also turn the display by pushing a button. The other play style is automatic revolving. The display turns automatically and the player doesn’t always have to move. We decided to design a game console which is compatible with both two way of playstyles.
1. For this game content, the player controls Mario to achieve a goal like in the Super Mario series by Nintendo. The direction Mario is going is always to the right and when he reaches the edge of the display, he moves to the next side.
2. The biggest difference between the normal Mario game and this is that sometimes enemies and obstacles show up suddenly from the next side.
3. A player has to turn the display itself by pushing a button to check the next side of the display.
2. Defining required functionality
I imagined three types of console designes (above image) according to the possible contents that we imagined. Eventually, we decided to go with the last design in the above image which allows us to change the shape of the 3D display. we defined that we need a button which the player uses to control the object on the screens (D-pad) and one which the player uses to turn the display itself (L button)
3. Designing hardware
UTC students and I cooperated to create a designed prototype. While the UTC students have done most engineering parts, I contributed to designing user experiences such as grip feeling.
4. User test
We conducted a user test with a prototype for three days inviting fellow students and professors. While the main purpose of the test was to find usability issues, we were also looking at how people find their ways to interact with the game console which would inspire us in coming up with new game contents later.
5. Discussion about possible game contents
In a reflection of the user test, we saw potential in communication between users and audiences, for example, the audiences gave players the information about what's happening in blind areas. Thus we decided to redesign our game contents that utilise the conversation between players and other audiences. To do so, I decided to design a detachable controller allowing different playing styles. For example, one of the two controller pieces could be removed and used as a standalone controller similar to the Nintendo Switch. This makes the display easier for users and audiences to view at the same time. Also, we attached speakers around the game console to create a unique and immersive communication experience for all users and audiences.
6. Redefining required functionality
I wanted to establish a consistent way of gripping controllers in both normal-controller-mode and standalone-controller-mode. (below image).
In our first prototype, our grip design was so-called banana-shaped and felt very different when switching between normal or standalone mode. In normal-controller-mode, the player would hold it vertically while in standalone-controller-mode, they would hold it horizontally. This would feel inconsistent for the player. Eventually, I came up with a redesigned controller that featured a circular shaped design with a roller. When a player rotates a roller using their index finger, it allows them to turn the display. This is intuitive for users since people can access the roller no matter how they hold the controller. We developed a prototype of the new circular designed controller, but we haven’t created a functioning roller input system yet. And the problem of focal distance between projector and display still remains now.
I made 3D rendering of the game console which we aimed to help people imagine the final product design. We used these images for some exhibitions to share our visions with viewers.