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Starfield Makes You Feel Like You’re Swinging Through The Galaxy

Inspired by an old Windows screen saver, this serene art installation lets you ride a swing through the galaxy.

Starfield Makes You Feel Like You’re Swinging Through The Galaxy

We use Kinect to play baseball, to dance, and even to work out. Yet the most exciting aspect of video interactivity isn’t enjoying watered-down versions of existing experiences, but experiencing new ones–like riding a simple rope swing through the night sky.

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Starfield is an installation by lab212 that uses a Kinect to track the perspective of someone on a swing (the proper term might be “swinger,” but we’re choosing to avoid it). As riders swing back and forth, projected stars move with them, creating a surreal, meditative environment that is eons beyond man’s capabilities to experience in the analog world.

The idea stemmed from a strange series of contributions from the entire lab212 team while setting up their new space. One member brought in an old swing and installed it. Then the idea popped up that the swing could be part of something interactive–it could hang over the planet through Google Earth–but that proved too consuming a project.

“As a joke, [we] just turned on the video projector and launched the old windows screensaver, Starfield,” writes lab212’s Cyril Diagne. “It was quite funny, but I found its simplicity beautiful and appropriate.”

Following that moment of inspiration, the technical aspects of the project were “quite simple,” thanks to the development community at whole. The star scene itself was mapped in openFrameworks, while the add-on ofxKinect handled the tricky tracking of the user. “The biggest challenge was to tweak the settings of our 3-D scene and the input of the Kinect to get an accurate and poetic feeling of flying through space,” writes Diagne. “We actually don’t even feel like we’ve created anything. We’ve just connected together things that were already there. This is actually probably the reason why this installation is having that much success.”

As a result, lab212 isn’t staking too much ownership over the project. Rather, the studio is making all of their project files available to the public in the coming weeks.

In other words, some child somewhere is about to receive the greatest bedroom makeover ever.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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