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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Recreating a system of audience control using coloured paddles: Part 2

Recreating a system of audience control using coloured paddles: Part 2

Last week I set up a simple recreation of Loren Carpenter’s Pong experiment and had some friends test it. I want to do this with larger audiences and have been working on making this happen.

Along with a collaborator, Min, we made some play cards cut out of plywood.

With 40 of these, I can start to test the patterns of behaviour that emerge in larger groups using this system of control.

Setting up the room

Last week I had my phone torch light set up to reflect light off the reflective tape and into the camera. I’ve now also tried using a desk lamp. This works better as it isn’t as bright in people’s eyes, and it gives a more dispersed light, which seems to allow for the players to be further away.

I taped the paddles to the auditorium steps so that I could test the colours being picked up.

Live Test

Once this was working pretty well, I recruited some helpers to test the system and play Pong.

It was interesting to see straight away how different people react. Some people start trying to lead the group, by shouting out orders. Others try and “hack” the system, by suggesting that only one person on each team plays. In fact I’ve now set up the code so that, if only one person plays, the team will be at a disadvantage, as fine control can be obtained when there is a smaller majority and the paddle moves more slowly.


In a couple of days I will be trying this out with a audience in the auditorium, hopefully around 30-40 people. Whereas before, all my tests have been with friends or other students, some of the participants on Thursday will not have any background knowledge of the project. I am hoping they will discover how it works without any direct instructions. I am working out how to stage this appropriately.

Games / Activities

As well as Pong, I’ve tried playing Chrome’s jumping dinosaur game. I did this by outputting keypresses from Processing based on the colour being held up. It is very difficult to control so I’m coding up my own version so that I can adjust parameters like the size and frequency of the obstacles and the height of the jump, to make it playable by an audience.


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