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What looks good, tastes better. That’s the magic about food. And if this can help us make children eat healthier food, this is all for the better.

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Packing healthier lunches for children becomes much easier with the inspiration from these Bento lunch boxes by Leukelunchbox.nl. Bento boxes are Japanese packed lunches that contain different layers of good food.

Another idea to make healthy lunches easy, is to make it a communal project. This was done by the Dabbawalla initiative by Waag Society. Like the Indian dabbawalla’s lunch delivery system, children and their parents took turns to create a meal for the whole class. Cutting costs, saving time, and sharing their culture and nutritional knowledge and tasty ideas as they went.

A story starts with the roll of the dice. At least it can with these Rory’s Story Cubes I ran into at Blijfwijs.nl. Wonderful idea to stimulate children’s fantasy and get them talking.

Tell stories from the icons on the dice. A spark of imagination.

Tell stories from the icons on the dice. A spark of imagination.

It brings me back to the project at Waag Society to create digital building blocks for stories.

Time flies: I came across this blog that documents the progress of the StoryBOX project at Waag Society.

Things have changed drastically since I left for my travels to Australia. The unit now looks like a factory instead of blocks and incorporates handwriting.

Picture taken from storybox.waag.org
Picture taken from storybox.waag.org
Picture taken from storybox.waag.org

Playing with words in a factory of sounds.

Objective: Develop a tactile toy for children between 6-7 years to learn language. Allowing them to ‘catch’ and ‘order’ words. This is one of the results of an evening of brainstorming and paper prototyping:

Modular telescope prototype.

It is a tool that is made up of different modules, allowing the children to capture objects, showing them to their classmates and telling a story about them. Turning the closed tubes up and down facilitates guessing games based on the sound the caught treasure makes. Other parts allow the taking of photographs, or have a display to show the pictures that are taken. Combining different hollow containers (object in display-tube placed behind a window-part) creates a cumulative experience of several aspects of one object-word.

The module sizes allow the sliding of parts into each other, creating one single tube that can be easily carried with a strap on the back. Connecting the corresponding cylinders allows for the creation of a network (with branching elements) enabling a game of sending words (‘Chinese whisper’), sorting objects in different categories and racing games along the coloured path.

The last Best Scene in Town workshop was introduced by interaction specialist Renato Valdes Olmos (Postmachina and My Name is E). He explained to the film and theatre professionals and interaction designers that were present that they should focus on context in their project. Not context in the sense of space and time necessarily (referring to the Nuit Blanche Festival on June 19th in Amsterdam in this case), but to the interaction with the material of the mobile phone.

Our portable telecommunication devices have been more and more fitted with sensors to register what their user is doing. Whether you move your phone into a certain direction, hold it to your ear or in your hand, it knows. Usefulness of these sensors becomes clear from the example of the screens that adjust brightness to the ambient light. However, phones are still unable to anticipate what you will do next.

The advice to think about this challenge was taken to heart by the participants. They worked with this insight by asking: Where would the visitors of the Nuit Blanche want to start the tour? What would they visit next? Where could they recharge their phones once these run out of batteries due to heavy sensor use? Thus mapping the expectations of the people present at the night of the Amsterdam festival, foregrounding logistics over entertainment in their design.

Consulting the phone to proceed the 7Scenes tour.

Link to the Dutch article at the weblog of Waag Society.

The second Best Scene in Town workshop in Waag’s Theatrum Anatomicum attracted staff from museums and advertising companies. Culture and commerce seem to be perfect ingredients to light up a spark. A clash of ideas was not so much noticeable however between individuals from these backgrounds. One did occur in the groups that were formed with mixed compositions.

Some group members wanted to develop a route along the budget addresses of the city, while others favoured a trip to Amsterdam’s gay-scene. In another group, someone wanted to create a route that enabled people to enact the criminal life of Willem Holleeder, while his group members were advocating a route for a couple in love celebrating their relationship.

Solutions were found when the groups moved on to other aspects of their route, such as interaction mechanics and location. Participants found out that their opinions on exiting interaction possibilities matched or that they agreed on the terrain where the route should be put down.

Best Scene in Town logo.

Introductory presentations were given by Juha van ‘t Zelfde (Visible Cities and VURB) and Sander Ejlenberg (MUSE).

The longer Dutch version of this article can be read here: http://blog.waag.org/?p=2865

Tested out some projects at the inspiration meeting/ open day of Waag Society’s Creative Learning Lab:

Games Atelier

During the afternoon we went across the bridge to play a GPS game at the Java Island. Being just short of phones, I shared one with a visitor who was interested in the technique because she worked with teenagers who had difficulties with learning.

The route was laid out as a free play along multiple locations with 7Scenes. Taking pictures and answering questions about the surrounding we moved along the streets. Getting into the game spirit, we tried to avoid other players when asking pedestrians for answers, while attempting to take a look at the actions of our competitors to learn what we had to do next.

Photo's that were uploaded during the play-time.

In sharing the phone, my teammate was more than happy to let me to the trial-and-error process of finding out the workings of the program. It was quite clear, although we did miss some points in not answering the question when trying to edit an answer or taking a picture. In the mean time she could imagine how her students would do the same.

We experienced some euphoria when at the end of the twenty minutes we discovered we were one of the groups with the most points.

Animaatje (Zand 2.0)

Drawing in the sand, following its relief, letting animated dots follow your tracks and all this is presented as a do-it-yourself device complete with manual and downloadable software. Intriguing how you can make a three dimensional drawing after building towers and holes in the sand.

Drawing in the sand with Animaatje.

Mijn naam is Haas
“My name is Hare” is a serious game that can aid children from 4-6 years in learning a language through exploring Hare’s world. I was thrilled by the easiness of drawing in numerous animals and plants into his surrounding, though wondering about the stimulation of children’s creativity: what would happen if they would be able to draw in trees and birds of their own choice and shapes?

Impression of Mijn naam is Haas.

ScratchWorx
After overcoming some nerves about breaking the device, I enjoyed the interaction of ScratchWorx, especially playing with the visuals. Looking up and down at my own mix-table screens and buttons and at the screen, I was able to experiment with and find out about the possibilities.

Impression of projected visuals and device.

Best Scene in Town is a contest organised by Waag Society’s 7Scenes platform which allows users to create mobile routes. In three workshops, professionals are invited to cooperate with craftsmen in other fields in the creation of novel concepts for routes through Amsterdam. Winning submissions can be played at the Nuit Blanche Festival of 19 June.

Architects and game designers were the first to create GPS routes. Remarkable was that despite their professional experience in designing with the help of computer programmes, all participants grabbed paper and colour pens to elaborate their ideas. Maps were drawn in, post-its with notes were shifted to construct storylines and even 3D paper doodles were folded and decorated to enrich the brainstorm process.

The resulting collection of concepts included lively ideas to make chill zones out of grim nightlife areas, to spread stories by placing them in virtual bottles, and to show the multicultural aspects of the city by visiting its inhabitants. The spatial flower and insect structures out of paper sheets that were mentioned above, gave inspiration for a mysterious game in which red buttons and sound and light effects would be hidden throughout the city. Creating suspense over which city tumults would be daily business as usual and which would be part of the game.

How 7Scenes places route points in the landscape.

This workshop was kicked off with introductions by Martijn de Waal (The Mobile City) and Kars Alfrink (Hubbub)

Assisting at this workshop resulted in a blog article at blog.waag.org (in Dutch).

Cinekid was present at the IPON congress for education and ICT, with their interactive studio.

I was interviewed by my friend in front of a green screen, dressed for the jungle, about the elephants in the background (Presenteren kun je leren). Underneath you see an example of a girl playing with the installation.

We made a short stop motion film with the ready to hand Lego figures and toy dinosaur (Stop! Motion!).

Cinekidstudio webpage with Stop!Motion! gallery.

And we decorated ourselves by angling funny attributes to our body with the help of fluorescent pink post-its (Digital puppetry). This installation is explained in the following clip.

Star of the exposition was SMALLab (Situated Multimedia Art Learning Lab), a mixed-reality learning installation which can be used to bring mathematics and science classes to life.

SMALLab and some of the other installations I have not mentioned yet are featured in this item of the Dutch youth news program:

Tweets (Dutch and English)

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