Challenging constrains, “don’t play with fire” is the motto for this provoking experience, assuming both wild and innocent sides of a concoction of rebellion and protectionism.

Play with Fire is an exploratory project that proposes to engage the audience senses in unconventional ways, such as playing with virtual fires through gestural interaction. It is a performative, immersive experience that invites people to interact with fire and real-time video from forests.
This audiovisual setup will be cross referenced with online data – videos, photos, news headlines –of the most recent forest fires of the covered area. By confronting real data on forest fires with forests real-time video, this approach contributes to explicit its dramatic potential, enhancing the emotional entanglement – “shouldn’t we actually act?”

We envisage the installation triggering controversial feelings by combining the "beauty and danger" of a forest on fire. This duality becomes part of the experience, and raises concerns in the audience mind, such as the pleasure and excitement of playing with fire versus its effects on a natural resource such as a forest. The experience concludes with visuals of a forest virtual regeneration process underlining the message: the forest will eventually grow again, but what is the price to pay?

The outcome of the “play with fire” experience can take two forms: immediately, as a final visual outline displaying data on what would have been the effective destructive consequences of the audience actions of playing with virtual fire. At a later stage, feedback to the audience will be given through images sento to a mobile devices, visualizing the slow regeneration process of feedback to the audience will be given through images sento to a mobile devices, visualizing the slow regeneration process of the (virtual) damaged forest, stimulating awareness and ultimately care.


I. System Architecture
Click on the images for full size

Play with Fire [v0.1] interactive installation generic version


II. First concept visuals

III. Storyboard | Complete experience sketches

Drafts by Valentina Nisi, during AZ residency


I) Projection of the real-time video of the (Laurissilva) where the participant will be turned to for the interactive performance
II) Perpendicular to this one, projection of the news mashup showcasing the headlines, pictures and videos of current/most recent forest fires in the area on a transparent screen; from the outside, the participants are seen as silhouettes performing the arsonist / "fire wizards"
III) Phone deck, where the mobile phone is placed to activate the game, triggering the flame over the forest projection, and charging the application while the participant is playing

EXPERIENCE PROTOTYPE (user point of view)

1. The audience passes by and sees the fire related news projected on the transparent screen, that also shows the silhouette of the participant "Playing with Fire". While there are participants in the installation, a red light is displayed asking to wait, and a written caption asks to turn the bluetooth on.
2. As the current participant(s) end(s) the game by collecting the mobile device(s) from the deck, the outside light turn green, allowing the new participant to "Enter". The news mashup runs continuously on the transparent screen
3. The user places the mobile phone with the bluetooth on on the deck, as if it were the flame ignition.

4. Initially, the user goes straight to the interaction with the real-time video of the forest projected on the whole wall (human scale/largest scale possible) – Laurissilva forest selected spot(s), in Madeira. Later, the user will be able to choose: which scenario? Which point of view?
Demo: forest/trees with a small fire lit + stereo sound attracts attention
5. Gestures – controlling fire: (1)starting it, (2) growing it, (3) concentrating ..., (4) moving it, (5) extinguishing
6. Fire climax! Fire follows trees structure / Fire has its own behavior

7. Burnt landscape as the resulting scenario
8. End of experience. Game score: as a measure of the damage generated in the Play with Fire interaction with the image shot + general data about how the performance fire damages; forest in full screen + regeneration times + climate change effect.
Projection (& audio?): "Game over" / Score / "You have burnt this much:… . This will take … years and … months to regenerate" / Take your phone"
9. The participant picks up the phone from the deck where he placed it in the beginning, now charged with the play with fire mobile application. The phone displays the icon for the application.


"Your performance has generated … amount of damage. It will take … amount of time (years, months) to regenerate. This application will stay with you during the real time of the duration of the regeneration of the damage. This damage was gnerated by your 'Playing with Fire' in the installation"
Display also: Time left / Replay (?)
The mobile interface application does the feedback in the installation end screen reflect the hypothetical results of the intersection with the Play with Fire installation [10 min max interaction (?)]
or is it more like generated data reflecting the forest burnt, regeneration time, climate change in the world? In his case, the end of the experience does not repeat the mobile App, but they work together in building awareness toward the problem.

III. Gestures mapping sketches + outdoors immersive experience photos
Based on the gestures performed and discussed at the residency

1. Beginning - starting growing the fire: energy emitting through hands / caring for the fire / blowing to grow a small fire / throwing
2. Moving the fire: slowly Tai Chi style / fast – up, down, sideways
3. Shaping the fire: making fire balls to throw
4. Extinguishing: blowing / blanket





... then, jail ;)


IV. Teamwork at AZ residency

V. Hardware and software work in progress
The work done with the Kinect at the residency was mostly exploratory, just to get the device set up for development plus some testing to know about its limits.

We are now working on a proof of concept of the installation based on the gestures performed and discussed at the residency and some simple 2D fire effects for a start. Once that is done, we will make the first video for the project development.

VI. Laurissilva » field work | Visual data for prototyping

Photos by Valentina Nisi [March 2011]

d c

Photos by Mónica Mendes [January 2011]

Photos by Valentina Nisi [March 2011]

b a


VIII. Ongoing submissions

Play with Fire | A Real-Time Video Experience for Sustainability
Presentation at
ISEA 2011 [Istanbul, Sept 14-21]

[Collaborative work for paper writing]

ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition [Georgia, Nov 3-6]
on interactive experiences for sustainability awarenes
Paper/Artwork submission: Apr 25


IX. Studies for the installation setup
Drafts by Valentina Nisi, during Lisbon/Graça residency


















BOLTER, David, GROMALA, Diane [2005] Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency (Leonardo Books), The MIT Press

DORAN, Andra, MONDET, Sebastien, GRIGORAS [2007] A demonstration of MobiTree: progressive 3D tree models streaming on mobile clients Paper » Video demo »

IKEDA, Sei, et al. [2010] FireVolleyball: Multi-player Interactive Game – Providing a Sense of Touching Fire, ACM Multimedia 2010 Procceedings

MONDET, Sebastien, et al. [2009] Compact and progressive plant models for streaming in networked virtual environments, ACM Procceedings

VIROLAINEN, Antti, et al. [2010] Cool Interaction with Calm Technologies - Experimenting with Ice as a Multitouch Surface, ITS, Germany

AGUIAR, Carlos, et al., CAPELO, Jorge (ed.) [2004] A paisagem vegetal da Ilha da Madeira, Quercetea 6: 3-200, ALFA, Lisboa. Portugal

DGRF [2007], Defesa da Floresta Contra Incêndios 2007 (Defense against Forest Fire 2007),
Direcção-Geral dos Recursos Florestais, Lisboa

FOREST [2009], Forest Data and Information Systems

COTEC [2005] Iniciativa sobre Incêndios Florestais

MOREIRA, Fernando (coord.) [2005] Vigilância florestal, detecção e alerta de incêndios florestais e apoio a sistemas de combate, INOV – INESC Inovação


Madeira island's Laurisilva UNESCO World Heritage Site
Laurissilva examples (images) »

Related & Inspiring

CUNHA, Filipe [2009] Robô de Detecção de Incêndios Florestais, "Criatividade e Inovação Ano Europeu 2009" contest winner

FEDKIW, Ron [2011] Computational fluid dynamics (fire effects)
Ron Fedkiw's videos, especially Fire with cellular patterns
(with Jeong-Mo Hong and Tamar Shinar)

OGAWA, Hideaki [2004] Perfect Time, Interactive installation

TULLEY, Gever [2007] "5 dangerous things for kids", TED talk 

Floresta Laurisilva "Til" (Ocotea foetens) tree

nVidia Vulcan Demo [Example of generative fire in real-time]
Fire in the "vulcan" Demo

Fairlight [Example of generative fire in real-time]

Havok | Reference to explore/find fire examples

Josh Nimoy [State of the art of 3D, particles – in real-time]

Flight 404 [Flash code examples]

Interactive installation "Fire" [watch and smell ;)]