In 2017, London’s Science Museum opened a new beautiful startling department, the WonderLab, a huge 7-section gallery entirely dedicated to kids and designed as a sort of futuristic scientific playground. On 25th January the museum celebrated the opening with an evening event where the students of IDA (Interaction Design Arts) of London College of Communication introduced the area presenting some of their works related to theme of the gallery. One project that I personally found very funny and innovative was the VoicePong developed by the student Daichi Barnett Yamamoto; the game is based on the 1972 arcade game Pong, a two dimensional game simulating a table-tennis match; both paddles though were controlled by the voice pitch of the two players who were given a microphone each; the purpose of the game was trying not to loose the ball. It was very funny to see participants screaming on the mics trying to find the right frequency to keep the ball in game.
Daichi is often creating interactive inspiring projects that involve sound or music. He is also a very good friend of mine; therefore, being curious about the processes of development of the piece, I decided to ask him some questions. The first thing I asked him was about the assignment that he’d received and he explained that the project was about the creation of something playful in which you can learn something. He then explained me that this idea came from a revision of project he created in the 2nd year when he was asked to collaborate with Videogame Design students to create an interactive game for a specific space of the school; being all passionate with music, they used sound to create a kind of tug-of-war game activated by screams. At first, for the Science Museum brief, he wanted to create the VoicePong with the purpose of just having fun playing it, successively he realised that at the same time the players would discover their physical ability at playing the game. As expected the game had a big success at the night, creating always a long queue of people that wanted to beat the record; the game is also very compelling, because it involves a collaboration with a 2nd player and it creates a kind of challenge with yourself.
I asked him about the technical side of the project, so how did he physically developed it; he had used the software MAX mainly on the sonic part of the project, while all the visuals were made in Java processing; he programmed MAX to transform the vocal/pitch signal received into numbers that were then communicated to processing and translated into a visual signal. Also he added: “Using two programs seemed weird at first, but then I discovered that the softwares are complementary, so what MAX couldn’t do was done by processing.”