Tofulandia (for Miso), 2009
Video display, motion-capture system, projector, computers, robot gaming software, 3D characters, blended reality gaming environment, Miso robot, sound and wireless joystick
Dimensions variable

Miso, the hypothetical offspring of Tofu is a baby robot character created by Ryan Wistort during his early research into applying the principles of animation (squash & stretch) to robot characters.

Motion capture for Tofulandia's robot gaming simulation framework was integrated by Jesse Gray. Jason Alonso, Roman Zadov, and Matt Berlin contributed critical programming knowledge. This work was done in the Personal Robots Group, a human-robot-interaction (HRI) lab, at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

This work was privately exhibited to H.S.H. Prince Albert II, Alexandre, Louis, Pierre, Sovereign Prince of Monco in November, 2009 at the MIT Media Lab.

Tofulandia is both a robot/video game and a blended spatial architecture. The player perceives a singular, fused reality despite it's actual composition of multiple, discreet spaces in the reality-virtuality continuum. Tofulandia(for Miso) was motivated by the artist's goal of giving Miso, the baby robot, a world that blends into ours.

Gamers would recognize this project as Pong between a teleoperated robot character and its friends in a virtual world. 

The player uses a wireless joystick to control a physical robot character, Miso, who interacts with their virtual companions of the same hypothetical species displayed on a floor-mounted, 42" video screen.  In the game, Miso's friends in Tofulandia are constrained to the virtual space inside the screen.  The game begins when a ball appears to roll out of the screen through projections on the ground using blended reality animation methods developed for this work.  The player controls Miso as they chase and return the ball to friends on the other side.


This work represents the artist's first published contribution to the field of human-robot-interaction.  Rather than focus on developing robot skills or capabilities, the artist chose to focus on the context of interaction, building an appealing and fun imaginary world where humans and robots could play together; a temporary play zone. Robert's working assumption was that the robot was more than just the sum of its mechanical parts, that it was, indeed, a character that needed a back-story and a world of its own in order to animate it with the illusion of life and make it even more fun to play with.

Tofulandia's fused, physical/digital context of play is computationally modeled as one continuous reality through methods developed including a shared physics model.  By keeping the ground planes of the physical and virtual spaces aligned as well as sensing and using the trajectory and acceleration of objects(i.e. the ball) approaching the inter-reality boundary, this hybrid, robot/video gaming experience feels visually and kinetically continuous across spaces.  The spatial superstructure simulated in this platform enables seamless play across the continuum of the fully virtual to the fully physical.

A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.
— Marshal McLuhan, 1964