By Jen Heller Meservey
If you’ve been to the movies recently, you may have noticed some ads asking you to wave your arms to control something on the screen. You may have thought it was a joke, that there’s no way a movie screen can detect whether or not you’re waving your arms, let alone in which direction you wave them. Believe it or not, this technology is real. It’s called crowd gaming, and it uses motion sensors to allow audiences to work together and control a simple game on a movie theater screen.
Currently, crowd gaming is mostly being used in movie theater advertisements, like MSNBC’s “NewsBreaker Live,” which premiered in Los Angeles, Cali., during the release of “Spiderman 3,” according to MSNBC. Similar to the classic Atari game, “Breakout,” “NewsBreaker Live” turns a movie theater audience into “human joysticks,” waving their arms to move an on-screen paddle back and forth in order to bounce a ball that breaks bricks. Some bricks contain MSNBC headlines, which the audience can then catch with the paddle and read. MSNBC calls the game, “the world’s first interactive cinema crowd game.” In the video on their website, one moviegoer called it, “the sweetest movie waiting experience I’ve ever had.”
Crowd Game in a Box
Etcetera Edutainment sells a “CrowdPlay Box Set” for $2,495, which they say transforms any Mac with a webcam into a crowd gaming machine, according to the product’s website. Aimed at corporate trade shows, fundraisers, and team-building efforts, CrowdPlay provides four different crowd games, including “CrowdBuster,” which is similar to “NewsBreaker Live.” Others include “Paper Plane,” which lets the audience control a flying paper plane using vertical motion, and “Robot Rebellion,” in which the audience must “steer a tank through an evil robot mob to save human survivors.” CrowdPlay can be customized with a company logo, and Etcetera will even create tailor-made games for specific venues or organizations.
Noise Controlled Games
Crowd Control Games offers downloadable crowd games which are controlled by the noise level of an audience. Each game is between $15 and $25, and can be played on any computer with a microphone. In “Road Race,” the audience cheers to move a car through a virtual race. The louder the noise level, the faster the car goes. The goal is to beat the other cars on the screen. “Crowd Ball” is similar to the immortal classic, “Pong,” and allows the audience to control an on-screen paddle with their voices. Cheering loudly moves the paddle up, and cheering softly moves it down. The two brothers who founded Crowd Control got their start creating crowd games for churches, according to their website. Their goal is to use crowd gaming as a way to “draw people in and then let you show them our savior.”
Angry Birds and Social Media
Last year, one of the world’s most popular online games, “Angry Birds” made it to the big screen in Singapore, thanks to Finnish crowd gaming company, Uplause. Audience members at the Formula One racetrack played the ultimate game of “Angry Birds” by controlling a giant slingshot with their voices. In addition to over 40 voice-controlled crowd games, Uplause also provides crowd games played through social media. Audience members use their smartphones to control games with Facebook likes and Twitter hashtags. This technology can also be integrated into interactive billboards, where passers-by can see their likes and hashtags appear live alongside an advertisement.
Say goodbye to boring movie theater commercials. Wave your arms, stand up, yell, scream and cheer for crowd gaming: the future of audience advertising.
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