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‘The Woods’ is a mixed-reality multiplayer cooperative game that addresses the perils of social isolation by promoting connections between people and actively engaging them through play. Using Augmented Reality (AR) and 4-channel audio spatialization panning, players choreograph their movement in real-world space, while interacting with birds, clouds and other objects in virtual space. In pursuit of a shared goal, players experience an immersive sonic narrative of rumbling storm clouds and disconnected voices that culminate in stories of hope and reconciliation. ‘The Woods’ provides positive social impact by illuminating our connections to one another and inspiring us to respond through collaboration.

Research has indicated that an increase in mobile phone use and online networking in general has had a negative impact on children’s health, citing screen time, “phone addiction” and lack of physical activities as potential health-related challenges. In contrast to face-to-face interactions, these same challenges can be detrimental to a young person’s mental and social wellbeing, lead to isolation and depression, cyberbullying, and even contribute to increased suicide rates. While loneliness in our real lives is increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences, ‘The Woods’ reimagines how this same technology can strengthen connections between people through physical play and collaboration.

The strength of cooperative games is that they promote social interaction, build empathy and improve personal relationships by encouraging players to work together to achieve a common goal. ‘The Woods’ further expands upon this by promoting real-world physical interactions over screen-based interactions that are made possible through our unique design of AR and audio spatialization. By highlighting the importance of physical interaction told through a digital narrative, our goal is to provide positive social impact by illuminating our connections to one another and provoking us to respond through collaboration.




Players and In-Game footage






Collaborators:
Prof. Kyoung Lee Swearingen, Department of Design/Moving Image Production, The Ohio State University
Prof. Scott Swearingen, Department of Design, The Ohio State University
Dr. Marc Ainger, School of Music, The Ohio State University
Dr. Federico Cámara Halac, Postdoctoral Scholar, School of Music, The Ohio State University
Sruthi Ammannagar, Graduate Research Assistant, Computer Science Engineering, The Ohio State University
Matt Hall, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Computer Science Engineering, The Ohio State University
Leigh Loomis, Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Design, The Ohio State University 

Additional Collaborators:
Prof. Mandy Fox, Department of Theatre, The Ohio State University
Prof. Kevin McClatchy, Department of Theatre, The Ohio State University
Skylar Wurster, Graduate Research Assistant, Computer Science Engineering, The Ohio State University
Rosalie Yu, Creative Technologist, The Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

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