Watch these kids play Star Wars on a giant touch screen

It's probably the level of concentration required, but these kids do not look nearly as excited about what they are doing as I think they should.

For the last two years, University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student Arthur Nishimoto has been working on this incredible-looking video game based around a multi-touch interface. According to the YouTube page, the game:

... explores how a real-time interactive strategy game that would typically rely on complex keyboard commands and mouse interactions be transferred into a multi-user, multi-touch environment. Originally designed for use with TacTile, a 52-inch multi-touch LCD tabletop display, "Fleet Commander" game play has been ported to EVL's 20-foot wide multi-touch LCD wall, Cyber-Commons. "Fleet Commander" uses Processing, an open source programming language.

There's more about the game's development at Nishimoto's website. Also: In before the Orson Scott Card jokes!

Video Link

Via and Carl Wirth



  1. I’m sure these kids are pretty smart, but they have the most blank & dumb expressions on their faces.

    1. “blank & dumb expressions”

      Lots of people get that playing video games even multiplayer ones. I find it a bit disturbing.

      I suppose without feedback from other faces your own quickly looses normal expression. I don’t think it affects you when you aren’t playing, however.

  2. We are finally in the future that *I* want to be in. Eff jetpacks, get me one of these.

  3. need need need!

    would you rather play against a blank faced kid, or me geeking out and being overly excited, maybe even panting a little bit?

  4. They’re not excited because, dammit! they don’t they realize they are living in the future!

  5. Sorry to be a downer, but all I can think of is that his is how the U.S. military will be conducting drone strikes in the near future

    1. ncarp, US military is doing drone strikes this way now! Well, maybe not such a big screen at the moment…and not using kids under 18.

      1. “ncarp, US military is doing drone strikes this way now! Well, maybe not such a big screen at the moment…and not using kids under 18.”

        “…yet.” You forgot “…yet.”

  6. They’re not excited because the fancy touch screen interface is basically being used to play Asteroids. No matter the interface, no matter the state of the art of the graphics, it’s all about the gameplay.

    1. They’re not even doing that. They don’t know or care which ships they’re attacking, so it is just a fancy video finger painting session with a space motif and Star Wars audio.

  7. OMG – want want want!!!!

    @ncarp – you think too small – imagine whole armies of killbots.

  8. processing? really? isn’t that like the arduino of programming languages? when are people going to learn to use a real programming language like fortran or python? i’ll bet you go into the lab where this was developed and all you see is PBRs and foozeball tables, completed with skinny guys in plaid teeshirts with ironic mustaches. no thank you, i’ll take my software written by actual geeks please!

    1. I hope you’re being sarcastic, but it’s kind of hard to tell… It’s just truly possible that someone considers Python a “real” programming language. But the Fortran thing … okay, gotta be a joke. Thanks for the delayed chuckle.

  9. They’re blank because they are likely playing a pre-scripted demo & are trying to remember their parts.

  10. I bet these kids are totally excited, and if you don’t think so you probably have seen too many commercials… Games that require a lot of thinking take concentration, but it’s the joy in the thinking that makes it so appealing. I think the same can be said for some sports with endurance. I’m a runner. A friend said that no one looks happy running. Why should they? They’re focused. Does a pitcher smile when he’s throwing the ball? Does a footballer smile when they are mid-catch? It’s a silly thought isn’t it? But no one disputes that they are having fun.

    This display is AWESOME and I want one for my house!

  11. While this first presents itself as visually incredible, it’s tactically a bad interface:
    1. The simple bias of a “wall” makes the user think in “up” and “down”, when that’s not the case (this is a top-down display)
    2. Another bias is introduced for people paying attention to the zone right at eye level. What about all that wasted space (literally in this case) down by their knees or above their heads?
    3. the circle-menus are visually cool, but they introduce a delay: keyboard strokes (or 10-key codes) are much faster and more efficient. They just require more memorization, but that’s not a problem for a real fighter pilot

    1. About your point 3, that’s because touch screens only have one kind of “click” – it’s like designing a game for a mouse with a single button.

      And about the blank expressions – could it be that this game isn’t actually any fun? Much like the movie battles, there doesn’t seem to be any strategy involved. It’s just straight-up attrition with ridiculous weapons.

  12. GAh! you can make a screen like that but you can’t keep a camera focused? I am getting old, that actually strained my eyes.

  13. “He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking.”

    Anyone remember the game Homeworld? That’s what I think of when I think of a space fleet simulator.

  14. Am I the only person who want’s to see Star Fleet Battles ported onto this platform. Maybe with your SSDs on an Ipad?

  15. There was recently a great show on NPR about the “Bamboo ceiling.” It might have some bearing here (or be total BS). The question was if Asian kids disproportionately do so great academically, why are they so underrepresented as managers and leaders.

    The main causes discussed were social differences. Two important ones were “work hard, and you’ll be noticed” and “Asian poker face.” In the first example, networking and self promotion are also critical to getting promoted (but the kids aren’t taught that). For the second, the inverviewee had a great observation: In most of the world, if you go around smiling and happy all the time, you are considered crazy. But in America, it’s the norm.

    So kids from Asian families develop an “Asian poker face.” It becomes hard to tell if they are happy, sad, upset, whatever. These kids could be on the verge of pissing themselves in joy, but we’re not savvy enough to know.

  16. sometimes i’m starkly reminded of just how cool the future that we’re living in IS. it’s not jetpacks and flying cars (yet?), but it’s really damn awesome.

  17. That touch screen is a hot bed for; dorritos cheese, and partial picked bogers. No thank you.

    1. I was thinking that, too. Giggled a bit since I like Borderlands and Cheetos so much… :)

      I could see my arms getting tired playing this after 4 hours… lol

  18. It is my fervent hope that the use of ‘on-purpose blurring’ does not catch on as a video editing technique.

  19. I always read complaints and criticisms of peoples’ expressions when they’re looking at computers or playing mulitplayer games or using the Internet. “Ugh, their faces are blank and bland!”

    Yes, this is true. It’s not because they’re not having fun, it’s because they’re concentrating. They’re using their brains.

    It’s also the same expression you get when you read a book.

  20. I’ve been video recording a summer camp for kids lately and I would say the blank expressions on these kids playing the Star Wars Wall Game are indicative of the intense focus and concentration that is happening in their brains. You would think that kids painting in watercolors, drawing comicbooks, or even shooting a short film would be having a blast and smiling all the time. WRONG!  They are focused and driven by the task at hand. It’s a rare moment that they break their attention long enough to crack a joke and smile, therefore showing the FUN and ENERGY that the Ad Agency is asking for me to capture. It’s kinda frustrating actually. I am afraid might have to hire child actors to eventually get what I have been tasked to do. Ironic isn’t it. :P

  21. How is this a better interface than, say, Red Conquest for iPad, which is a viable commercial app?

  22. Everyone would stop complaining about their facial expressions if they were properly in uniform. UNIFORMS!!!

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