February 17, 2005 Brisbane-based research group ACID showed some ground breaking new digital entertainment and communication technology at the b'TWEEN Festival of Future Entertainment conference in the United Kingdom today - technology that could have the same impact on digital communication as SMS messaging has on mobile phone usage. MMS Me is an MMS game designed to encourage people in to play and communicate with others via images broadcast on a large screen. The game stimulates both online and physical interaction and can be applied to many existing social gatherings such as networking events, sporting events and rock concerts where a large screen is available to display the interaction.
CEO of ACID, Professor Jeff Jones demonstrated MMS Me - a world-first MMS game designed to allow people to play and communicate with others via images broadcast online.
"MMS Me is the new generation of SMS messaging, allowing unlimited participants to interact simultaneously via images. It's as much based in social as it is technological research and opens up a whole new world of mobile phone communication," said Professor Jones.
"The project has already attracted significant global interest, with possible commercial applications within the advertising and retail industries and major sporting, musical and other large-scale events.
"ACID is currently working with the Museum of Brisbane on developing MMS Me for their upcoming Buddha Exhibition and this is a really exciting public use," he said.
"Everyone had a pretty good idea of what you can do with SMS, but about nine months ago we began looking at what could be done with MMS," said ACID's Sonya Henderson Edbrooke.
"At ACID's company launch in October 2004, we demonstrated MMS Me so people could capture images of what had been happening during the day and what was happening at the party and send them to the MMS Me screen. Within a couple of minutes, people would see their images start appear on the screen, and this stimulated people to take more images, begin using their phones and talking to one another.
"The most important aspect we see is how you use these new technologies to create a social interaction," said Henderson Edbrooke.
Not surprisingly, a multitude of organizations are very interested in what we can be done with ACID's new MMS Me technology according to Henderson Edbrooke. "For example, we have been approached by a hospital that is interested in improving the social interaction and collaboration of their staff. Email on its own won't do that. It needs more. We think technology can be used to achieve what they are seeking. We're looking at multi-user environments people know from the PC and putting it out into physical environments."
Though the MMS Me game can be played in many ways and circumstances, here’s a typical example: 36 people in a room are given a phone number to call to activate the game play.
They are given clues or questions and they have to SMS people in other places to get some of the answers, but in answering some of those questions, they actually have to interact with other people in the room.
So the MMS Me game it's not just a remote wireless game, it also setting up clues and social interactions face-to-face in the physical environment face-to-face as well as using the technology to interact with people you don't know across a long distance.
As players answer the questions and send their answers to the MMS server, it then begins to reveal images or additional clues on the large screen and those images begin to create another image ... it sounds complex but in real life it’s reportedly simple and fun and ensures you get to know the people in the room.
“MMS Me is about interaction with people through the phone, but it's also about the technology enabling you to find people within your physical space and meet those around you,” said Henderson Edbrooke. “People you would never have spoken to otherwise, for example, at a conference.”
Professor Jones also unveiled the BODYSHELF to international delegates at the UK conference.
Henderson Edbrooke described the BODYSHELF thus: "BODYSHELF is a life-size shelf that you step onto and lean back against an angled wall. There are sensors at all the pressure points, and there's a board that you stand on that moves too.
"The pressure points and the movement of your body interacts with the visual image on the screen in front of you and is transmitted to another BODYSHELF connected by broadband.
"I can be on a BODYSHELF in Brisbane and interacting with someone else on a BODYSHELF in the UK. We each have characters within the online performance and by the way we move our bodies, we interact and influence the movements of the character. The movements are tracked and transmitted via the BODYSHELF, which incorporates an array of sensors, detecting the shifting balances of bodyweight."
“Now I can't see the person in the UK or hear them, but I can see what their character is doing so I have to become the character to interact with the other person. There are also sensors that indicate how “close” I am to the other person. The closer I get to them, there will be a vibration or a pulling sensation that indicates I am coming closer to the person I am interacting with.
The 'Intimate Transactions installation' (aka BODYSHELF) forms part of a larger ACID research and development project that uses bandwidth - once the vehicle for corporate and educational data - in new and challenging ways.
"This interactive installation allows us to test the social and technological aspects of streaming-technologies, whilst pushing the boundaries of what constitutes smart-furniture," said Professor Jones.
"Two people in separate locations, possibly countries, can communicate using body movements via the BODYSHELF.
So what sort of experience does the BODYSHELF offer the user?
“As you begin to interact with the visual image that’s in front of you, you learn that you have to move your body to define the character and by moving your body you create different physical characteristics in the image and become very aware of your body movements. How you “talk” or interact by moving your body becomes a sensory, a new sensory capability.
It’s about a new experience in interaction. The intention is to have an installation in the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne and in other places during 2005.
ACID's web site can be found here.