A collaborative installation concept using mixed reality to create a playful experience between strangers in a shared public space.


The plaza outside of the Montgomery BART station caught our attention because of its drastic change in mood compared to the street just a few feet above it. Passing by for the first time, we were treated to an unexpected view of the plaza below. This unique perspective eventually became the focus of our project.


This project was a collaboration with designer Brodie Legnon. My roles were surveying the site, performing primary research through rapid prototyping, and developing the final prototype, using Unity3D and Arduino.


Our goal was to augment the space in a way that unifies or builds on a collective's shared experiences with a public space. In the case of our chosen site, we decided to study current behaviors and relationships in the space to better understand how we might either build around them, or disrupt them in an interesting way. Some of these behaviors and relationships include:


  • The space inside the plaza is constantly switching between being nearly empty and being filled with rushed commuters every few minutes.


  • Many people on the upper level wait on the steps with their back turned to the plaza.


  • Being inside the plaza has the feeling of being on  stage. This is reinforced by the feeling of looking down at the center platform from the upper level.


  • The majority of people in the plaza were only passing through, rather than stopping to spend any time there.


Our earliest prototypes involved getting a feel for the space at different times and testing lighting conditions with the idea that we might play with projecting in the space. Building off of insights from the previous week, we became more and more interested in trying to see if we could disrupt the flow of the space and get people involved in different participatory actions, like responding to a prompt.

This direction came from our initial comparison to the plaza and a stage or performance. This lead us to attempting to create something that could entice people to break away from their path while simultaneously breaking out of their comfort zone and performing for themselves as well as for the people around them.


After finishing 5 weeks of hands-on research and prototyping, we narrowed our ideas down to something that would invite people to break away from their path and encourage them to create a playful atmosphere for people in the area, even if they're only passing by and don't get to participate themselves.


For our final build, we created a display that uses silhouettes to prompt players to strike a pose. By holding the pose, the silhouette fills up to reveal a character. Some silhouettes may also be intended for more than one person, encouraging players to engage with others around them. The revealed character is then dropped into a virtual scene of the plaza, where it acts out a unique behavior, making the scene more fun to watch as it fills up.

Over the course of a day, the virtual plaza becomes filled with characters and serves as a measure of how many people have played. The final prototype was created using Unity 3D and arduino. The arduino uses an ultrasonic distance sensor to sense if players are in the right position. That data is sent to Unity and used to control filling up the silhouettes and triggering the release of randomly selected autonomous characters into the scene.