Playful perspectives

Everybody in our team used to love the headtracking Wiimote hacks by Johnny Lee. We started thinking about what this type of playful experience could mean to mobile user interfaces. What if the perspective changed as you looked at the mobile screen from different angles?

In 2009, there wasn’t any mobile cameras or software that were fast enough for real headtracking. We still wanted to prototype what the experience could be like, so we created a video in After Effects of a UI where the perspective changed a few times. Then we played it on a device and I synched my hand movements to the pre-rendered changes in perspective. It became an animated trompe l’oeil image.

Even though the production quality was horrible, this was the first TAT video that reached a really large audience. There are two things that I think contributed to this.

1. A balance between novelty and the well-known. Since the tilt interaction was new, we decided to apply it to a very simple and recognizable home screen and grid of icons. We feared that too much novelty at once might confuse viewers (e.g. when showing a new interaction together with a futuristic design, which we had tried earlier).

2. The itch of uncertainty. We knew that the audience of David OReilly’s iHologram video went crazy over not knowing if his concept was real or fake, so we decided not to tell anyone how our video was created. The video comments clearly shows that this made a lot of people more curious about the concept. (Beware that this type of media manipulation might eventually backfire.)

Today, it’s fun to see this idea finally being implemented for real by Amazon. After all, everything is a remix.