It’s no coincidence that great storytellers often talk with their hands. They can become puppets, bring bedtime stories to life, or punctuate the anecdotes we tell our friends over drinks after a long day. Hands help us imitate and enrich and enlarge our everyday narratives when words alone fall short.
Interactive media artist Erik Loyer uses Leap Motion to bring the natural gestures of real life into the world of digital literature. Loyer is known for his pioneering use of fluid 3D navigation in narrative, founding Opertoon Studio to pursue the power and potential of “stories you can play” From sci-fi graphic novels and photorealist prose to iPhone love stories, his award-winning body of fiction and non-fiction brings the tactile use of devices to the forefront of the reading experience.
When Loyer began using Leap Motion as a vehicle for storytelling, he landed on the idea of breathing – using sweeping gestures to breathe into a space, as well as a guide for meditative contemplation. His latest piece, a surreal comic called Breathing Room, uses the Leap Motion Controller to push, pull, and wave through an audiovisual landscape of rustling trees.
Within Breathing Room, each movement above the Controller prompts the sound of a breath and a shift of the scenery, as if each inhale and exhale brings the world to life before sending it calmly into retreat. Fragments of the story unfold in each panel – sometimes one-off phrases, other times a multi-paneled vignette – but the story never repeats in the same order. It’s a brand new reading experience each time you play.
“I think it’s a huge thing to get people away from grasping a device.” Erik says, “There’s something really powerful about a reading experience with loose, broad gestures that help you move through a text.”
Each movement above the Controller prompts the sound of a breath and a shift of the scenery, as if each inhale and exhale brings the world to life before sending it calmly into retreat.
Recently, the Modern Language Association featured Breathing Room in its interactive tribute to the history of digital literature – Pathfinders: 25 Years of Experimental Literary Art. Students at Washington State University Vancouver will soon be using Breathing Room in an upcoming course on language, texts, and technology to explore N. Katherine Hayles’ classic How We Think in a whole new way.