Toy Worlds@Cosma

As you may have guessed from my last post, Toy Quest, I’ve got toys on the brain.

Why not? It ’tis toy season, after all!

Except that if you’ve been reading these posts for awhile, then you know I’ve had toys on the brain for many months now because I’ve been creating experimental interfaces to this site, and I’ve been using toys to do it 🙂

Cosma.org is a directory of some of the best content resources on the web, so showcasing great resources is the primary goal of this project. However another key goal has always been to provide a fun spatial interface to those great resources. There have been many versions of interfaces created with a variety of platforms over the years (HyperCard, SecondLife, Unity3D etc.). You can find out more about them on the Worlds page.

A funny thing happened while doing “previs” for a future version, though.

It turned out that using a RICOH THETA S 360° Camera and RoundMe to hack together a demo led to an unexpectedly fun and usable interface. The resulting “Toy Worlds” are now serving as an interface to Cosma.

This is the first in the series of Toy Worlds that serve as an interface to this site.

Click the 360° image below to explore this Toy World, click the menu in the upper right for controls and click “i” buttons on/off for links to experiences. Use “portals” to visit other Toy Worlds.

You can also explore this on RoundMe.
If you have trouble seeing this on RoundMe, then try using an updated or different browser.

Here is one of the earliest, less “polished” demos that I created before all of the Toy Worlds that are distributed across this site. There are some fun nooks and crannies to explore in this one!

Click the 360° image below to explore this Toy World, click the menu in the upper right for controls and click “i” buttons on/off for links to experiences. Use “portals” to visit other Toy Worlds.

You can also explore this on RoundMe.
If you have trouble seeing this on RoundMe, then try using an updated or different browser.

While it is a bit “rough around the edges” relative to the other, later demos, it does have the advantage of having been shot in an actual dollhouse, so it is the most “toy season” appropriate Toy World demo of them all!

Bit of Backstory

I bought a RICOH THETA S 360° awhile ago.

I didn’t want me and/or the house in every shot as I learned to use the camera.

Then I had an idea! Why not use a lamp shade to cover the camera?

I tried that, but the only lamp shades in the house were too little to get a sense of the focal point and resolution in the shots.

There was lamp shade shopping to be done.

That is how I found myself in a Target with a lamp shade on my head checking out the view.


Ooops! 🙂

So, I found the perfect lamp shade and started to learn how to shoot 360° images.
Perfect Lamp Shade

Of course, inside a lamp shade is boring!

That’s why I also grabbed some cheap, silly stuff at Target when I got the lamp shade.

Next I decided to test out the 360° photo sharing service called RoundMe.

It has the ability to add links, so I decided to make something more elaborate to test out the linking capabilities.

Here’s the first “shade world” that I created in order to test links in RoundMe 🙂

It was around this time that I began to realize that a more elaborate version of this approach might work for doing “previs” for some “microworlds” that I plan to make and embed on this site when there is a sufficiently advanced way to show high quality and interactive 3D spaces on web pages.

I began going in that direction with this “microworld” that was my first experiment in using Roundme as a “previs” tool before creating something in a more robust platform like Unity3D.

Then I found this adorable dollhouse in a local antique shop, and I just had to start making some far more elaborate demos!

In order to get more objects in the dollhouse and provide closure to the space, I built it out with some wooden frames. Then those wooden frames turned out be so useful, they clearly took on a life of their own!

So, things went on from there to become the interface to Cosma that Toy Worlds are now — you will see many Toy Worlds distributed across this site.

At this point I’ve taken these demos to their natural conclusion as far as making interfaces to this site. My next adventure will involve either moving on to a new 3D/360° platform or going back to using Unity 3D for making visual interfaces to this site. You can watch for updates about my progress doing this on the Worlds page of this site.

While I’m not planning on creating any more Toy Worlds for this site, that doesn’t mean that there is no future for them.

I don’t know if you noticed, but Toy Worlds also happen to be a great, newfangled way to do those good old staple projects for elementary school students, dioramas.

I’m hoping that elementary school teachers and anyone who is raising an elementary school kid will not only get a kick out of exploring Toy Worlds@Cosma.org — they might also be inspired to create some of their own!

So there it is — I hope you enjoy Toy Worlds & Happy Holidays!

Find out more about Toy Worlds@Cosma