Professor Bill Tomlinson
Man Lok Yau
Jesse Gray
Eric Baumer
Jessica O'Connell
Ksatria Williams
So Yamaoka
Sara Goetz

The Virtual Raft Project is a multidisciplinary undertaking seeking to create communities of believable autonomous characters that inhabit heterogeneous networks of computational devices. In particular, the project is interested in allowing the characters to break the plane of the traditional desktop screen. To this end, we have designed an interactive installation featuring a novel tangible paradigm for interacting with the characters. This paradigm involves the use of a mobile device, such as a Tablet PC or handheld computer, as a “virtual raft” by which a character may be transported among several virtual worlds. By enabling the character on the raft to react in real time to the raft’s motion in real space, this installation encourages participants to become physically engaged with virtual characters. We believe that this physical engagement can lead to an increase in the believability of the characters. 

Please watch a short video about the project.  (~33MB, ~3.5 min, requires the free Quicktime 6 player.)

Also, here is another video of a group of homeschooled children and their parents interacting with the system. (~27MB, ~4 min, requires Quicktime 6). (Here is a version of the video that will work with older versions of Quicktime. The video is the same as above, but the file is ~63MB).


A "virtual raft" is brought up to a "virtual island."

A community of autonomous characters
gathers around a central fire.

When the raft is tipped, the character needs to
try to keep its balance.

B. Tomlinson. 2005. "Negative Behavior Space in the Design of Interactive Agents." In: Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE 05) conference, Marina del Rey, CA. AAAI. (To appear.)

B. Tomlinson. 2005. "A Heterogeneous Animated Platform for Educational Participatory Simulations." In: 10th Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 05) conference. Taipei, Taiwan. (To appear.)

B. Tomlinson, J. Gray, M. L. Yau. 2005. “Multiple Virtual Rafts: A Multi-User Paradigm for Interacting with Communities of Autonomous Characters.” In: Late Breaking Results (Interactive Poster), ACM Conference On Human Factors In Computing Systems (CHI 2005), Portland, OR.

B. Tomlinson, M. L. Yau, J. O’Connell, K. Williams, S. Yamaoka. 2005. “The Virtual Raft Project: A Mobile Interface for Interacting with Communities of Autonomous Characters.” In: Conference Abstracts and Applications, ACM Conference On Human Factors In Computing Systems (CHI 2005), Portland, OR.

B. Tomlinson. 2005. “Designing Affective Interaction Paradigms for Animated Characters.” In: Proceedings of the Human Computer Interaction Consortium Winter Meeting (HCIC 05), Fraser, CO.

This project had its first public exhibition on November 19, 2004 at the opening of the new Cal-(IT)2 on the campus of UCI.

It will also be shown at:

  • CHI 2005 in the new Interactivity venue
  • CSCL 2005 as an interactive presentation
  • SIGGRAPH 2005 in the Emerging Technologies program.

The version of the project shown at Cal-(IT)2 worked
with multiple virtual rafts at the same time.

Jessica O'Connell, SURP Multidisciplinary Seminar, UCI, March 2005

Man Lok Yau, SURP Multidisciplinary Seminar, UCI, March 2005

Bill Tomlinson, Cal-(IT)2 opening (tours), November 2004.

Man Lok Yau, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research, November 2004

Bill Tomlinson, UCI Informatics Seminar, October 2004

Bill Tomlinson, ASU Artist's Lecture, September 2004

Future Work
The team currently has collaborations under development with Professor Lynn Carpenter in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCI; with Professor Thomas Alspaugh and his research group in Informatics at UCI; with Discovery Science Center in Orange County, CA; and with the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN.

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