Fantastic Creatures

Image credit: Fernando Nieto

In the summer of 2021, we premiered FRIDA Inmersiva, an original Cocolab project that had been in the oven for 3 years.

It is a multi-sensory experience that shows more than 20 Frida Kahlo works coming to life in immersive projections. During the exhibition you can listen to fragments of her personal diary and perceive much of the playful and creative personality of this famous painter.

In addition to the monumental show, there are two interactions that we designed to amplify the experience of the people who visit the installation, offering a place where they could actively participate and play.

To access these interactions, (as well as to enter the show itself), you have to pass through huge curtains made of ropes, which generates a sense of curiosity and surprise in the people who visit the experience.

Image credit: Fernando Nieto

Come through this curtain with me and let me tell you about: Fantastic Creatures

This interaction is named after the fantastic creatures that emerge from an "exquisite corpse," a game that Frida used to play with her friends. A person starts a drawing, and the following participants continue the figure.

For example, Frida drew the head, and folded that piece of paper so that the next friend would draw the torso, but without knowing what Frida drew, and so on, this paper was passed from hand to hand, until everyone drew something.

This game is also used in writing, where each participant writes a part of a story or a poem, with a fun and unexpected result.

Exquisite corpse, 1932- (Link)

One of the main objectives of this experience, was to be able to achieve that surprise in the visitor.

The interaction is a platform where you get on and see the projection of a fantastic creature as if it were a reflection that follows your movements.

And, with a button on the floor, you can generate a new random figure, simulating the idea of ​​an "exquisite corpse" made with elements of Frida Kahlo's work.

For example, a creature with the head of a watermelon, feet of nopales, torso of a monkey and arms made of pebbles.

But, as you might imagine, in the process of creating a project like, we learn many things:

First sketches of Clarissa Oliveira
Frame of a storyboard and paper prototype
A storyboard
Firsts tests in Cocolab lab. Photo by Cecilia Valera.

Size (and setting) matters.

We had the opportunity to test and adjust on site (something that often cannot be done, due to scheduling issues) and, although we did not have much time, we were able to realize many improvements to be made to this experience, when we saw it in the final setting.

Being able to experience the projection with real size allowed us to verify that we had to adjust both the luminosity of the elements of the creature, as well as the background, which was too bright compared to the rest of the exhibition.

*Víctor Díaz, the developer, testing on site (Fronton México). Photo by Cecilia Valera.

We were also able to reposition or discard elements that we had originally suggested, such as a timer that told you how much time you had left to play, because nobody saw it, as well as the…

Instructions that no one read

The people who played did not read the instructions.

The icon accompanying the text didn't make a difference either, it was equally ignored. “Press the button to start”, “Press the button to change creature”.

And it's not that we liked to put those steps to play just for the laughs, it was because due to a technology limitation: it seemed that using the button on the floor, was the only way to activate the game, and that the device could detect the user.

On the first tests we had user recognition problems. Video by Melissa Fuentes.

Use the technology wisely

We noticed that the devices we were using were the cause of us not being able to detect the user. In other words, what we saw in the projection was a 'creature' that did not respond to the movements made by the user on the platform.

Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't because our technology was obsolete, but because we needed old technology to make it work.

Apparently, the Kinect 2.0 series (which is already out of production) has the particularity of allowing more options for developers.

Fortunately, we found some, despite being discontinued, and the developer managed to make the detection and movements of the 'creature' adequate.

Simplify

The button that had been intended both to start the game and to change creatures had become unnecessary (and with it, the boring instructions).

This was great news, the game had become much more magical. It was like a mirror.

The game could already be activated directly with the presence of the person on the platform.

It worked, it was magical, but something was missing.

Poor button, so bright, and then so unnecessary.

Gratification

We were missing the surprise you get when you play “exquisite corpse”, the gratification of the game, the unexpected.

Originally, when the button was pressed (some people didn't even get to activate it because they were watching the huge projection) the 'creature' was changed and there was no extra effort. But, thanks to the developer's work, it was possible to alter the creature's elements with player-specific gestures.

For example, if the person jumps, the creature changes its head and torso; if it moves to the right, the right leg is changed. And so.

With this, people were encouraged to change their creatures more. With the movements they also came out like small pieces of confetti (made with elements of Frida's work) that made the change even more gratifying.

Instructions?

We had to put text showing how to change the parts of the 'creature'. Since it was much less elaborate and funnier, it was easier to read and follow. For example, “Jump” or “One small step to the right”. They weren't really instructions, they were more like random hints on how to play, because nothing happened if you didn't follow them.

Anyway, these are just some of the main learnings that the "Fantastic Creatures" left us. The reality is that there were many more adjustments and improvements that we were making throughout this journey.


See the' Alan por el Mundo' review here:

FRIDA was a homemade product, 100% by Cocolab talent, and that allowed us to have the creative freedom to make changes and improve it as we went by.

Bye!