Bell Ice Cube Provides Interactive One-of-a-Kind Fan Zone

June 15, 2011

Bell Ice Cube was a critical touch point in the heart of downtown Vancouver during the Winter 2010 Olympics.
The Bell Ice Cube center succeeded in transforming the ordinary into a powerful memorable experience using dynamic place-based media.


DSE® 2011 Gold APEX Award Winner – Public Spaces: Bell Ice Cube
NOMINEE:
Bell Ice Cube, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
NOMINATING COMPANY: Scala, Exton, Pa., and Jigsaw Interaction Design
CATEGORY: Public Spaces
PROJECT: Bell Ice Cube was a unique winter sporting event project in Vancouver that used illuminating LED cube kiosks that could sense visitors’ presence, react to the distance between them and the visitors, and then activate a LCD screen that provided a series of sports-related videos that visitors could choose from to watch.

Bell Ice Cube attracted many visitors and offered them a dynamic, engaging experience.
Young or old, visitors to Bell Ice Cube were able to cheer and watch teams compete live in high definition, get the inside scoop on their favorite athletes using interactive cubes or “Smart Cubes,” listen to live music and mingle with some of the world’s best athletes – all under one roof.

OVERVIEW
An exciting demonstration of dynamic place-based media, the Bell Ice Cube project, deployed by Bell Canada, provided the ultimate fan-zone experience this past winter in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Young or old, visitors to Bell Ice Cube were able to cheer and watch teams compete live in high definition, get the inside scoop on their favorite athletes using interactive cubes or “Smart Cubes,” listen to live music and mingle with some of the world’s best athletes – all under one roof.

Housed in a 3,000-square-foot structure, the unique high-tech design of Bell Ice Cube served as a magical space to create a memorable experience for all ages while adding credence to a world-class brand – Bell – which is one of Canada’s largest communications companies. The center hosted more than 4,000 visitors each day during the two-and-a-half week sporting event.

OBJECTIVES
Bell wanted to create an experience that would allow the public to connect to the spirit of Vancouver’s winter 2010 epic sporting event in a way that no other venue could offer. With more than 20 LCD screens using 10 discreet high-definition feeds, plus dedicated live feeds, the Bell Ice Cube enabled visitors to view, interact and learn within an experiential environment. It became a natural meeting place for people coming into the center of the city.

CHALLENGES
Touch screens could not be used in the smart cubes for a number of reasons. Because of this, another interactive mechanism had to be implemented in order for visitors to be able to select between their choice of videos. Physical buttons were an obvious option, but something more engaging and playful was needed. Distance sensors were used to provide a mechanism to determine simple interaction.

For reliability and failsafe mechanisms, it was decided that each cube would be completely self-contained since there was no room to house a server room. This also ensured that, should a cube fail, it was a simple case of swapping out the computer hardware without everything going down. Making the environment feel connected, by carefully arranging the cubes and equipping each cube with multiple sensors, the user became the bridge that connected the cubes to each other visually without the need of a single central control mechanism. It was, however, also possible via the LAN network to control and synchronize visual patterns.

Along with the construction and installation of the smart cubes, Jigsaw also created a unique display in the center’s lobby made up of 11 Samsung Omnia II phones. The phones played perfectly synchronized video, in essence creating a large video canvas. A custom application to synchronize and trigger, on cue, video content across the 11 phones proved to be quite the challenge. The challenge was not posed by writing the application, but in the “fail safes” implemented since the phones were never designed to run 24/7.

SOLUTIONS
Jigsaw Interaction Design had developed a unique set of tools, software and specialized modular hardware that proved critical to this project. They were able to leverage the best aspects of existing open architecture with Scala 5, and integrate it seamlessly with electronic components and other hardware components in order to deliver a cohesive user experience.

Jigsaw’s toolset is made up of a custom software application, diVA, and modular electronic hardware that was developed from the ground up for use in creating complex immersive environments. The software application acts as a bridge or hub between Scala 5 and the custom, off-the-shelf hardware. The visual programming environment ensures that it is quick to assemble interactive experiences using whatever is available or needs to be used. Thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the various components is required.

Jigsaw also produced all the motion graphics and animation content that was used throughout the venue. They have more than 11 years of experience creating content for digital signage networks and 15 years of working with Scala software.

RESULTS
Once inside, visitors had the opportunity to engage with the space while being constantly entertained and delighted by visual and physical stimuli. The center of the room hosted 12 22-inch Samsung LCD screens or “Smart Cubes.” The cubes acted as self-contained interactive kiosks that responded to a user’s simple hand hover actions letting them select between three high-definition videos.

The cubes also responded to visitors’ movements throughout the space. The LED illuminated white cubes would switch to a glowing blue cycle when someone was within a certain distance of it, and then back to white as they moved away. Sensors ensured a 360 degree detection radius. The visual result produced the illusion that the cubes “followed” visitors though the space.

When a user stood within two feet of the front of the cube, a special condition was met, and the glowing cube would respond by turning to a solid blue. At the same time, on-screen content would switch from a screensaver animation to a short three-second visual animation. The animation showed the user where to hover his or her hand in order to select from a unique set of videos, and where to plug in his or her ear buds. When the user walked away. the cube would return to its default state.

In the end, Bell Ice Cube was a critical touch point in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The center succeeded in transforming the ordinary into a powerful memorable experience using dynamic place-based media.

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