From the start of this project we wanted to experience other kind of projections other than the usual video projector. We first thought to hide completely hand-crafted mechanical projectors and project the light sideways and reflect it on a mirror. We tried this approach with simple tubes but we quickly realized that cones gave a better light.
Even though this solution was technically possible, we realized that it was just too complex to manage mirrors with servomotors and consequent light distortions caused by the angle of reflection of light. So we tried to project directly from the top of the Sotoportego. The video below shows our first mechanical projector design and our experiments projecting using mirrors.
The idea of using mirrors came from a series of experiments we did. We thought of this for another installation idea during the brainstorming phase. We wanted to change the perception of the user when he or she entered a street. The video below shows these experiments.
Changing the technical approach on the mechanical projector gave us the possibility to meditate on how we could design a projector not only for the obvious purpose of projecting footsteps shapes, but also in order to amuse the user in a pleasurable experience.
Therefore, we thought of a shape that evocate the legs of the guide which are always preceding and leading the user during the experience. The subsequent goal was to create a shape which was convincing in terms of representation, but without being too precise: we needed to balance between a shape which could be recognized as a footprint, but not a very specific and connotated one. The images above show part of this experimentation.
Testing the interactions
A very interesting field of investigation, even if complex, was also how to humanify the steps in order to make users feel they behave as a human being. In our minds this was crucial to enhance the quality and the smoothness of the interaction. We started first with simple paper prototyping.
We then needed to understand which was the correct time and distance for the guide to be ahead: too far would make the installation pointless, too near would make it not believable. Therefore we decided to test it physically: two of us tied up one to each other, and the physical constrain gave us a clear and precise answer in terms of space, while timing took some more time in order to refine which would be the most appropriate speed our guide should start from.
We discussed most of the interactions using paper prototypes. The videos shown on Possible Interactions were made after exploring the possible scenarios using a drawing of the sotoportego and interacting with it using finger dolls. We also created flowcharts of the possible interactions for better understanding. We would later animate this scenarios and then test them with the final prototype.