Elon Computing Sciences

Catching Fireflies: A Persuasive Augmented Reality Game for Android Phones

Presentation at Elon Student Undergraduate Research Forum, Spring 2011

Amy Eubanks (Dr. Joel Hollingsworth) Department of Computing Sciences

Catching Fireflies, an augmented reality game for the Android Operating System, has many purposes such as to explore how best to simultaneously use multiple abilities of the phone as well as to offer players a nostalgic, calming experience. However, the overarching motivation for the firefly application is to address the question of how to use technology to compel users to step outdoors and recapture an appreciation for the simple beauty found in nature. In short, how effective is an augmented reality game in getting people to go outside?

The application includes two Android activities and a live-wallpaper that work seamlessly together: 1) a "field" program that maps and displays a number of virtual fireflies to an open space to allow the player to view them; 2) a "capture" program that relies on the proximity sensor to register a capture and consequently removes the firefly from the open space and places it into the lantern; and 3) a lantern live-wallpaper that animates the captured fireflies in a lantern, including the light generated by the fireflies.

With the novel use of augmented reality as a persuasive technology, the game "Catching Fireflies" animates glowing, moving fireflies created specifically for the game, over a streaming image generated from the phone's camera. Multiple options for play allow the user to choose among timed, leisurely, or a more competitive version of the game. The game supports play at both night and day; however, it must be played outside. Besides the camera and GPS, the application uses sound, vibration, the proximity sensor, accelerometers, and orientation sensors to encourage players to relive their outdoor childhood memories of catching fireflies. The combination of using augmented reality as a persuasive technology along with incorporating free movement makes "Catching Fireflies" a unique mobile application. However, in order to completely answer the research question (how effective is the game in getting people outside), a social study which measures participants‘ time spent outdoors before and after the game would need to be conducted.