Laughter, jostling and game play is all part of the research in exploring what the future holds for the relationship between technology and our bodies.
Director, RMIT Exertion Games Lab
Exertion Games are digital games that require participants to exert physical energy. Analysis of game playing enables researchers to design interactive experiences that promote a more active human body.
The Exertion Games Lab researches the intersection between technology, play and the body. Professor Mueller and his team have created numerous technology-based games that challenge participants through playful, exciting game play. The Lab aims to show industry where games can take us in the next 10 years.
“I have a vision of the world where our interactions with technology increasingly involve our bodies. We believe play is a great facilitator in exploring the connection between technology and our physical forms", explains Mueller.
Professor Mueller’s international research career has given him access to peak university and industry research laboratories, including the MIT Media Lab, CSIRO and Microsoft Research where they developed the Xbox Kinect.
A project that exemplifies Mueller’s work on the body as part of digital play is the ‘Joggobot,’ a flying quad-copter that accompanies a participant while they jog.
Most robotic technology is designed to fulfill tasks that humans don’t want to do, like vacuuming or entering highly dangerous areas. The ‘Joggobot’ on the other hand is a companion robot, which flies with you while you jog. Its main function is play, which is a very different robotic experience.
The ‘Joggobot’ is a physical presence that interacts with a jogger through non-verbal communication. It can move faster, slower, rise and descend, enhancing the playful aspects of jogging with a companion.
“We want you to see jogging as a form of play, so we are not aiming for you to go 5% faster but instead have an engaging experience, resulting in you jogging more often for the fun of it”, says Mueller.
Another Lab creation is the ‘Lumahelm’, a sports helmet that displays the wearer’s heart rate on its illuminated surface.
“The flashing coloured LEDs give a visual indication to observers that the bike rider is in a very different physical state to car drivers or pedestrians, hopefully heightening a sense of mutual understanding and appreciation of being in traffic together” says Mueller.
Ultimately Mueller hopes to support universal human goals, such as living a healthy and fulfilling life, through the design of interactive technologies. This aspiration has gained substantial international research funding from the US, Australian, UK and German governments.
For Mueller one of the benefits of the Exertion Games Lab is his interaction with students.
“Students are a constant source of inspiration. In turn I hope to inspire and teach them new ways to think. That way my designs and the potential impact of this research are manifold as it is passed to the next generation of researchers.”
Professor Mueller says RMIT’s urban campuses are excellent locations for his research, utilising elements of the city such as bicycle culture and trams in digital game creation.
“RMIT is the perfect home for the Exertion Games Lab. RMIT is a University of technology and design: our focus is on both understanding the technology and designing the future of interactive play. Melbourne residents love participating too. We have installed exertion games in Melbourne trams and tested ‘Lumahelm’ with the cities’ cycling community.”