by Joseph Leray
You know what's cool? Art installations that are wired up to let people play a life-sized version of "Katamari Damacy," Keita Takahashi's whimsical dreamscape-meets-social-commentary, using a giant yoga ball. Using a projector, an Arduino circuit board, and some optical mouses, Über Cool Stuff owner and do-it-yourselfer Chris McInnis debuted the project at London, Ontario's Nuit Blanche art festival a few weekends ago.
It's worth noting that the idea for a life-sized katamari has been rolling around (get it?!) for a while now: McInnis got the idea from a hacker named Kellbot. The basic principle is to replace the PlayStation 2's analog sticks with an optical mouse that can read the yoga ball's movement and then send that signal to the game.
In any case, McInnis roped in other woodworkers, coders, electricians, and artists and eventually got the project working, complimented by some papier-mâché katamari and King of All Cosmos costumes. If the above video is any indication, it seems like yoga ball "Katamari" was a treat for young and old players alike.
While this particular "Katamari" hack might be a one-off installation for Nuit Blanche, it actually fits into a larger trend of making big, public, physical games. McInnis' project actually reminds me of Douglas Wilson and Bennett Foddy's work on games like "Johann Sebastian Joust" and "Mega GIRP," or even WallFour's "Renga" project.
Be sure to check out McInnis' site for more photos, technical walkthroughs, and information on the yoga ball katamari project.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter