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Universal Threshold Object

Roles Played: Interaction Design, Narrative Design, Lead Programming, User Testing

Episodic, story driven TV programs have historically been non-interactive in nature, usually focused on telling a story without much opportunity for viewer interaction.

Video games have attempted to tackle interactive fiction, but the major focus is placed on mastery of controls, quickness of reflexes, and gaming conventions such as win/loss conditions.
Most current interactive TV apps are focused on social features such as audience polls, viewer interaction with hosts and shopping/retail features

With the UTO , we aimed to build a device that enables the user to interact with the world of the narrative

The device was built in collaboration with the Synaesthetic Media lab, led by Dr.Ali Mazalek. To design the form factor and shape, multiple sketches and foam models were created, and a rough user test was done with about 10 adult participants, and 8 different foam models of different shapes and sizes to select an appropriate shape and size for the first prototype.

The device was built using an Arduino mini, with an accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, force sensor, three vibration motors and a bluetooth transceiver.

Building The Scenario

The other part of the project, which I was focused on, was building an appropriate scenario to demonstrate the device. For this, we chose the popular television show "American Horror Story".

Extensive storyboarding, wireframes, shooting with green screens and video editing was done to bring the scenario to life. The scenario was designed in such a way as to give the user a feeling of control over the narrative, but at the same time, making sure that the outcomes pan out consistently with the story of the show.

The prototype was coded using HTML 5 + CSS + JS client running a Unity plugin for 3d rendering certain interactive parts of the scenario.A separate server was written to communicate with the device, while the Unity plugin would raise socket requests to this server, in order to overcome browser sandbox restrictions.


User testing and iteration is currently underway as a part of my Master's project. Initial user testing so far, has been highly positive and areas for improvement have been identified for future work. A paper is expected to be published based on this work.

Designed by Bala Ganapathi. Typeset in Lato from Google Web Fonts. Uses jquery and the cycle.js plugin by Mike Alsup.