24 June 2004 VSAR 120: T. Allard
Mi Casa Es Tu Casa
http://www-crca. ucsd. edu/7Esheldon/micasafindex. htm
'Mi Casa Es Tu Casa' is described as a bi national network virtual reality play house, half of it is here in San Diego at the Children museum and the other half is in Mexico City at the national center for the arts. It has 2 physical spaces in these 2 locals and has a number of things a kid can play with and interact with like over sized tools, giant balls and a magic mirror. While they are playing with those things they are imputing events into a computer which generates a 3-D computer graphic representation of what they are doing and these representations are shared between the 2 places, both San Diego and Mexico City. Through that computer mediated space, the kids from San Diego and Mexico City both have play where they can interact and play with one another. One of the things that happen inside 'Mi Casa Es Tu Casa' is the kids go inside and get a virtual character assigned to them and they can go in front of what is called the 'magic mirror' and manipulate the character to their liking from a palette of choices.
The computer-mediated environment is created by a few key technologies. For example, when a kid walks into the space there is a video camera overhead to watch their movements through the space and through some computer vision processing tracks the kids, sends their positions and I.D. numbers to both computers in Mexico City and San Diego. The computer that is drawing the virtual environments is an 'Onyx Reality Engine 2 Computer' that draws these 3-D texture map virtual environments in real time.
It is interesting that this whole thing is possible because of the Internet and that kids from San Diego can interact with kids from Mexico City in a video game environment via an Internet connection.
In your standard, everyday video game, the narratives are very prescribed and generally very closed however, in 'Mi Casa Es Tu Casa,' the narratives are rather overall narratives with regional concerns and concerns with the playhouse and playing itself. The kids, while they are doing the project, they are looking at their narratives at the moment. They are more concerned with who each character is and which character they are and the changes that are going on within the playhouse. The narratives of the kids are more open ended due to the nature of the playhouse; they deal with what is going on in the present and how each kid deals with certain changes within 'Mi Casa Es Tu Casa.'
Virtual Reality is a popular term that started about ten years ago to describe the type of experience that one could have with computer mediated environments where these environments would perceptually 'fake' the environment of each person and take him or her away from their physical environment.
"Mi Casa Es Tu Casa,' is complex yet incredibly valuable in the way that is blends the fantastical world with the real world. The intertwining of a mediated world and our physical world is something with a long history. You can see it in the first drawings and stories that were told, for example, 'The Allegory of the Cave.'