Xbox H2O: 2nd Place UIST 2013
Student Innovation Contest (People’s Choice)

Our team from Hasselt University (Raf Ramakers, Ben Jorissen, Thomas Stockx) won the 2nd price at the annual ACM User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) student contest in St. Andrews (Scotland). The contest challenges the entrants to create innovative interactions using state-of-the-art hardware. This year all contestants received 8 miniature water pumps. Over 240 conference attandees participated in the voting and selected the submission from Hasselt University as one of the very best.

Our team from Hasselt University, consisting of PhD and master students, developed a water-controlled game platform, which we call Xbox H2O. The platform consists of a display with water inside and 8 waterpumps lined up at the bottom. The player can control these pumps with an Xbox controller to control the waterforces that influence the physical ball inside our screen. This ball serves as the main character in the game platform and can be moved upwards, downwards and sideways to avoid obstacles and catch points.

Although the user can simply use a joystick and a trigger to steer the ball in the game, a lot more is going on in the back which makes this game so easy and fun to play. By tracking the physical ball with a camera located in front of the screen, the game logic decides which pumps to turn on at a certain moment. This game logic is based on a basic principle in physics, called the Bernoulli effect, which ensures that the ball is always sucked into the waterstream and floats fairly stable on top of the fountains as a result of differences in pressure. At the same time however, this physical effect makes it impossible to move the ball sideways. To solve this problem, the two outer pumps are slightly tilted so that when they are turned on, the water streams will intersect each other and break the Bernoulli effect causing the ball to jump to the next fountain. This fountain will then be turned on at the right time to take over the ball.

Official UIST 2013 student innovation contest webpage: http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2013/contest.php

Videos during the conference: