The Industry's Seedy UnderbellyDoing the CrowdWaveThe Industry's Seedy Underbelly - RSS 2.0
A rookie goaltender is trying out for a hockey team. The pucks are lined up and shots are ready to be taken.
The first puck is shot down the ice. The goalie leans left. Knocked down. Save!
But only one section of the crowd goes wild.
That's not because the other sections fell asleep. It's actually quite the opposite. Everybody is out of their seats and moving around, despite the fact that there isn't a single hockey player on the ice.
That rookie goalie isn't real at all, he's merely a videogame avatar displayed on the Urbandale Centre's giant screen above the rink, being controlled by the entire crowd. And those quieter sections? They failed to stop the puck and gave up the goal.
This gaming platform works by using a series of high-resolution cameras placed around the arena to capture crowd movement and convert it into gameplay. In Save!, sections of the crowd are pit against each other trying to make the goalie stop as many pucks as possible. If enough people in a section move their arms to the right, that's where the goalie goes and vice-versa.
"It's a videogame where the crowd is the controller," says Ottawa 67's Vice President Randy Burgess.
Motion-controlled games have been around for quite some time, peaking in 2006 with Nintendo's release of the Wii. Both Sony and Microsoft have made their own entries into the motion gaming market with the Move and Kinect respectively, but while these systems will be set up in living rooms, the Ottawa, Ontario-based CrowdWave has brought a similar experience to arenas.
The Vision Interactive system made its debut on home ice October 2009 and had its first away game a few months later when it was picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team for games at the Quicken Loan Arena.
There, sections of the stadium would compete against each other at a variation of Dance Dance Revolution called Dance Off, played by having spectators wave their arms around in the directions shown on the giant screen.
The system can also be used to take a poll of the crowd through movement to find out, for example, which highlights fans would like to see replayed or which player was the crowd favorite at that point in the match. Venues can also use the technology to compile data on which sections of the game had spectators moving and cheering the most.
A lot of computing power is required to perform the analysis of high-res video and calculate the average crowd movements that make the system work. In that sense, CrowdWave's development was helped out by the constant decrease in the price of computer hardware.
"I don't think we would've been able to do this three years ago and have it be economical," says CrowdWave president and founder Mark Edwards.
The story behind CrowdWave begins in 2007 when Edwards, a former lawyer and animation producer, started up Bent 360: Medialab Inc. (of which CrowdWave is a division) as a branded entertainment firm. Edwards quickly realized the market had become quite competitive and he'd need a unique product to differentiate his new venture.