[Event] Recap: IxDA Pittsburgh April Event at the ETC

5 Apr 2009 - 11:23pm
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Jack L. Moffett

On Wednesday, April 1st, IxDA Pittsburgh was hosted by CMU's
Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). Betsy McIver, a second year
masters student, met us in the lobby and introduced us to Quasi, a
conversational robot who tried to convince us that he was a little
boy. Quasi was the result of a student project that has since spun off
as the company Interbots ( http://www.interbots.com/ ). Other projects
demonstrated for us included a kiosk that would snap a photograph when
it detected a face in frame, adding it to a collage displayed on a
large LCD screen, and a synthetic interview with Benjamin Franklin.

Betsy gave us a tour of the ETC facilities. Emerging from the elevator
on the fifth floor, we found ourselves onboard a starship with
interactive displays on the walls. Other hallways were lined with
memorabilia from movies, television, video games, and other forms of
entertainment. The members of the Robot Hall of Fame were prominently
displayed, as were full-size statues of Batman and the Joker,
Terminator, Dobby, and others. One wall presented framed graphics from
games and movies, each one listing the ETC graduates that had
contributed to it.

We learned about the program—curriculum, projects, and the like—while
visiting project group rooms. Team members were diligently working,
but were willing to take a few minutes to describe their projects. One
group was working on a virtual environment for rapid prototyping of
entertainment spaces. Our tour guide's group is collaborating with
Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Girl Scouts, and YWCA in the design
of an installation that allows kids to draw using a robot arm and a

Not all students were working hard—we found a group in the game room,
playing a video game projected on a massive screen with surround
sound. The room is equipped with all of the game consoles, and had a
few arcade games to boot. They explained that the room is used for
doing research. Every student is required to review and critique a
video game during their first semester.

It was an impressive tour. It seemed as if one could absorb the
creativity and innovation through osmosis just by walking through the

Jack L. Moffett
Senior Interaction Designer
412.459.0310 x219

You could design a process to catch
everything, but then you're overprocessing.
You kill creativity. You kill productivity.
By definition, a culture like ours that
drives innovation is managed chaos.

-Alex Lee
President, OXO International

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