Friday, September 10, 2010

PhotoCity Summer

PhotoCity doesn't have its own blog, but I do! (As of very recently...) So let me tell you all about what happened with the game this summer.

The epic competition between University of Washington and Cornell that brought in over 100,000 photos (wow!!) wrapped up in late May. From then until mid-June was a mad rush to get everything ready for the Foundations of Digital Games conference, followed immediately by taking PhotoCity the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Here's a shot of the Arts Quad at Cornell reconstructed by PhotoCity players:

(see full size)

FDG
We presented on PhotoCity at FDG. You can find the paper, presentation, videos, etc. on my home page: http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/ktuite/. The paper discusses the design challenges of designing a hybrid alternate reality game with a purpose (or "ARGWAP"). In other words, a GWAP played out in meatspace. This was the first thing we ever published on PhotoCity, and my first conference talk! And oh boy, what an exciting talk! Conference attendees may remember it as being in the session where the projector was totally busted and we had to give our talks with 50% of our slides missing. I still think I gave a pretty good talk, though.

During the conference, I took some photos around Asilomar Conference Center, and added them to the game. The textured wood and cloudy skies made the seeds look really nice.




Also, there was a tiny pony:
FDG pony

This photo would probably fit into the 3D model. A 3D pony would not magically appear, though. Maybe he's textured enough, but he's in a different position in the other photos I have of him.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Right after FDG, I flew from California out to DC. The guys from the Smithsonian 3D digitization team contacted us and proposed having attendees of the Foklife Festival, the annual 2 week, million-people multi-cultural festival, play PhotoCity and reconstruct the Smithsonian buildings all around the National Mall.

Visiting DC was really cool. Having a presence at Folklife was cool. We had a booth with a computer set up and we'd show people the models and tell them that they could contribute just by taking photos with their own cameras.

photocity booth


Some people played. Some people submitted a few hundred photos each. One person submitted over 1,000 photos! The problem was that people at Folklife (the visitors) didn't really understand the game. "Me? My camera? You mean I have to remember to upload my photos when I get home? Whaaaat?" The lesson: In it's current incarnation at least, PhotoCity totally fails as a casual game. It's too involved, too complex, also too awesome for mere mortals to comprehend.

The rest of the summer
Nothing really happened with PhotoCity the rest of the summer. I took a hiatus, and therefore the game took a hiatus. I went to a workshop on Human Computation and talked to some people about PhotoCity and their own crowd sourcing methods. I traveled and took photos in exotic places. (Like Massachusetts... and Barcelona...) If only the game worked well enough for me to upload my photos!

Now
Right now, I am working on a second PhotoCity paper.

It is also important to me to fix up PhotoCity so that it's stable and usable and fun again. The main things I want to fix are:
- making it super easy (and fast) for anyone to add seeds anywhere
- figuring out a better solution to the problem of occasionally running out of disk space
- reprocess the models that are sort of gnarly (sometimes when a model grows, it gets kind of unruly and extra walls or other weird growths appear)

So, Internet, I am open to suggestions about the most important things to improve about PhotoCity!

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