A Kinect portal to Wonderland?


This spring, one of the most innovative offerings on London’s famed theater scene is wonder.land, a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic story of Alice’s adventures in a strange world. Playing to packed houses at the National Theatre, the production follows a teenaged girl named Aly, as she explores a mysterious online world called wonder.land. As the National Theatre’s synopsis states, “wonder.land is a coming-of-age adventure that explores the blurred boundaries between our online and offline lives.” The play combines live actors with digital technology, creating an enigmatic world, where Aly just might find out who she truly is.

Well, what would a mysterious digital world really be like? Theatergoers have a chance to find out in the “walk in wonder.land,” a Kinect-enabled installation that is part of an accompanying exhibit at the National Theatre. By using software created by Play Nicely, a UK-based design technology studio, “a walk in wonder.land” allows patrons to immerse themselves in Aly’s online world. Theatergoers simply walk up to a large projection screen and, thanks to the watchful eye of the latest Kinect sensor, they see themselves projected into a wonder.land garden of magical plants and animals. With the Kinect sensor tracking their every movement, users quickly discover that they can interact with otherworldly flora and fauna. Touch a luminous mushroom, for instance, and a swirl of colorful beads and music bursts forth. And since the Kinect v2 sensor can track up to six users simultaneously, a “walk in wonder.land” allows entire families to frolic together in the ethereal digital garden.

As Play Nicely Director Ollie Lindsey explains, the latest Kinect sensor and SDK provided “the perfect technology to create an immersive and accessible walk-in experience as part of our 'enter wonder.land' digital exhibition at the National Theatre, for which we also developed a number of other augmented and virtual reality experiences. Using the Kinect’s high definition camera and depth sensor, we transported users into a vibrant, surreal, and interactive (you can play the plants!) wonder.land garden created in Unity. Employing a number of the features of the SDK alongside the Unity asset package provided by Microsoft, we were able to use the depth sensor and body index to generate a 3D depth mask to cut out users and place them within the scene with relative ease, and the body tracking to track hand, head, and feet positions of multiple users in 3D space, in order to create a truly reactive environment.”

The “walk in wonder.land” installation is far from the first time the folks at Play Nicely have taken advantage of the Kinect for Windows platform. In fact, they’ve employed Kinect on a variety of experiences over the last five years, including the Terminator Genisys campaign, which used Kinect to transform users into the T-1000 and practice swiping targets with their now-transformed blade arms. They also utilized Kinect for Windows to transport visitors under the Thames in an underwater adventure, and to welcome visitors into a world of stamps and dinosaurs in a collaboration with the UK’s Royal Mail.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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