High and Low Tech Interactive @ TEDxKyoto

This year at TEDxKyoto, a new interactive team was assembled and geared to get participants more engaged with speakers, vendors, volunteers and each other. We wanted to encourage more interaction between all stakeholders both in-person and virtually on-line. Looking to approach the idea on several fronts and link them all together the team and I put together a series of activities that have never been seen at TEDx events ever before. The result was an interesting mix that got great reaction from participants.

Augmented Reality Booths

To have a bit of fun we created a booth where passers-by could play around with some of the fun things we had programmed into our augmented reality app without having to install it on your smartphone. We set up a station that had a few webcams hooked up to laptops. We asked people to show us the cover of their speaker program and the image would be augmented and displayed on a screen.

We used these images to start a live twitter feed so everyone could see their pictures both online and on the monitors showing the feed around the venue.

The reaction was always very fun to see as most of the participants thought we were simply taking photos of people passing by. Over the course of the day we took over a hundreds of these photos and most of them went up on social media.

Augmented Reality Smartphone Application

We created a smartphone application that allowed participants to explore the venue in a fun and interesting way. This app overlayed digital information on physical things all over the event such as signs, artwork, volunteer T-shirts and the distributed speaker program. The user would aim the app at the object just like you would be taking a picture and when a pre-programed object was recognized the app would display a variety of digital information. That information came in a variety of forms like video, images and links to social media outlets.

The application download links and instructions were put on a website I created just for this event called ARientation.

There was information about what could be used with the app and also information about the other activities our team was managing.

Participants would use the app to find information about speakers in the program guide and about vendors at their booths.


We created a twitter rally to get the participants interacting with some of the great projects the vendors where doing.

Visual stands were placed on the vendor’s booths as well as other places around the venue. When the app was used to view the picture an interactive digtial layer was displayed on top of the object in real time. Much of the digital content displayed where buttons that linked to additional information about the vendor, speaker or object.

Links took users to company websites, speaker profiles and social media outlets. Notably canned tweets with hashtags related to the event were sent out at the touch of a button. We had team members monitoring these hashtags and curating tweets and images to display at our augmented reality booths.

TEDxKyoto Stage Experience Trigger Image

One interesting exhibit using the app allowed the user to experience what it would be like to stand on the TEDx stage with a 360 degree interactive panorama.

When the image is detected by the app it displays an interactive panorama from the perceptive of standing on the TEDxKyoto stage.

The panorama would act like a window into another place and time as it reacted to the position and movement of the phone by using the motion gyros and other sensors on your smartphone.

I've created a web version of this so you can experience this interactive panorama on your PC, Mac or smartphone.


Screenshot from the TEDxKyoto Interactive Panorama 2014

Sound and Body Experience

We have wonderful musical performers at TEDxKyoto every year. One of our team members was developing some software that allows you to use your body movement along with sound to create images and video. We took this platform and created a space where participants could interact with past and present TEDxKyoto performances in a unique way.

Messages from the past to the future

We created a booth for participants to engage with the theme of the event. A bamboo installation was created so everyone could write a message to reflect on the past and project into the future. The results are shown in the video.

For the Future

There were many things to be taken from this en devour. One is that using augmented reality for the fist time takes a bit of a learning curve. It is not that it is all that complicatied, but the mix of real world and simulated objects takes a bit of getting used to. That is one of the reasons I wanted the booth with so that participants could test the concept out before using it on thier phones. The spacial reasoning required is also quite high, some people found it difficult to position themselves or thier smartphones in the correct position repective to the virtural objects. This also takes some practice.

It will be great if we could test this technology out with some head mounted displays or some pre-loaded tablets. Unfoutunetly I have yet to find a head mounted display that can handle the processing power needed to track and display images for AR. I have tested it on Google Glass and it was unacceptably unresponsive. Pre-loaded tablets on-hand would be great as downloading and installing the app took a bit of the precious time participants had to mingle between speaker sessions.

Overall it was a fun and very rewarding experience. We hope you come see how this evolves for next year!