Shake the room

Google opens up Interactive Spaces API

An intriguing new open-sourced framework from Google allows people and objects to be tracked through space, allowing for immersive, interactive physical spaces.

The Java-coded API and runtime environment project, Interactive Spaces (staying true to Google’s straight-talking naming policy) can be used for tracking objects and people in a space and providing virtual interactions between the two.



Ceiling-mounted cameras track people walking on the floor through blob tracking. The floor then presents a coloured circle underneath that person and follows them around the room, wherever they stand.

Keith Hughes, from Google’s Experience Engineering Team, explains the concept further in the blog announcement:

Interactive Spaces works by having “consumers” of events, like the floor, connect to “producers” of events, like those cameras in the ceiling. Any number of “producers” and “consumers” can be connected to each other, making it possible to create quite complex behavior in the physical space.

Interactive Spaces contains a collection of libraries for making all this interactivity possible, with a wide scope present within the project. 

“Implementing an activity can require anything from a few lines in a simple configuration file to you creating the proper interfaces entirely from scratch,” says Harris. The runtime environment allows you to control the activities running across multiple computers from a central web application

Theoretically, it can run on any operating system that has Java present, so Linux and Mac OS X are in, with Windows to follow at a later date. Additional languages like JavaScript and Python are supported out of the box too.

So, Google provides the palette, and the developer can let their artistic side run free. The potential here is huge - it looks like it would fit perfectly into an trendy gallery for an art installation or could be used to produce physical educational exhibitions for museums. Google clearly have this in mind, by revealing plans to support the Processing language used for similar scenarios.

Interactive Spaces is licensed under the Apache 2.0 licence and the source code for the project is available from Google Code. It’s an intriguing concept that is well worth checking out. Keep an eye on this one as developers flock to it showing off some artistic flair.

Chris Mayer

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