Intern Abuser

Fig 448a. NeoPangea

Format: Live Event c.2012

A devious mechanized contraption designed to both delight and terrify depending on one's proximity to a host of vexing robotically actuated misadventures. Voyeurs  welcome!

This live, interactive Web event fused custom robotics, HTML, digital & mechanical gaming elements, and lighthearted skullduggery into a hilarious cybernetic fun machine. Players from all over the world were granted an exclusive opportunity to aim and fire our robotic weaponry over the Internet at targets in our office using an elegant browser-based interface. Meanwhile, live video feeds and social media components kept participants actively engaged.

The Challenge

A cadre of dedicated gamers and robot enthusiasts, we wanted to bridge the gap between the virtual elements of modern play and the tactile stimuli present in the physical world. Games that take place solely on a screen are common, but we resolved to amplify the gaming experience by transforming the player's electronic commands into physical actions carried out in real life, effectively merging man with machine!

We challenged ourselves to create a compelling gaming experience using robotic contraptions while still maintaining elements of skill and chance. Partially to prepare for a future in which our robot overlords will favor the humans who best understand them, we've been keen on experimenting with robotics, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to plumb those mechanical depths.

We also wanted to stage our first live, interactive web streaming event, one that would capture the imagination of participants and keep them actively engaged for extended periods of time. Finally, we wanted to have some fun with our departing intern, who had been a blast to work with and a valuable contributor to our daily regimen of mayhem.

At Neo-Pangea, we pride ourselves on crafting mutually beneficial experiences for everyone who joins our team, so we asked ourselves, "How can we inform the world that an internship with Neo-Pangea is richly rewarding?" It seemed like a good opportunity to do our first live, interactive Web event, but we had trouble deciding how we could best showcase the Neo-Pangea intern experience. Fortunately, a recent intern volunteered to be the human element in an interactive robot-fueled romp featuring slapstick physicality that would make Bugs Bunny ROTFL, solving our problem for us. To add intercontinental insults to his mock injuries, we asked the entire world to help us, and thus, the Intern Abuser was born.

Due to the interactive nature of the project, we had to master both the physical and virtual realms. Crafting a groundbreaking interactive experience of this magnitude comes with a significant number of challenges, such as, "How the hell are we going to pull this off?" and, "How do we effectively annoy the intern without actually murdering him?" Fortunately, these are the sorts of questions that Neo-Pangea loves to answer.

The Solution

Several gut-busting brainstorming sessions soon yielded a bevy of cartoonish annoyances. Before long, we decided it was time to breathe life into our multifaceted monstrosity and share it with the world. During the course of this two-day event, participants were able to view multiple angles of the action from our studio via Ustream-hosted video feeds, and our in-studio announcer provided live blow-by-blow commentary.

After joining the queue with their Facebook login, players from all over the world had 30 seconds to remotely aim our mechanized doombringer and fire foam darts at targets that triggered different mischievous events in our studio. To get technical, player input was captured by a custom browser-based interface that employed the open-sourced power of the Python programming language. Once captured, the electronic whims of our participants were instantly funneled into a remote web host. From there, commands traveled under cover of darkness via a top-secret, ninja-guarded VPN into a Linux-powered Phidgets control server in our studio. Finally, Phidgets USB controllers and actuators worked in concert to aim and fire the foam darts within our interneriffic firing range in response to the remote player's commands. (Did you get all that?)

When one of the targets was struck, it would unleash one of six gleefully impish irritations on our good-natured intern: The Studio 54; It's Raining Pain; Sucker Punch; Smoke Out; Pull My Finger; and Let's Go Clubbing. In-studio minions were on hand to manually reset weapons and annoyances, but all targeting and device triggering was handled solely by the online participant via our custom electronic wizardry.

Social media tools enabled real-time communication between the global pool of participants and our in-studio crew. To increase audience engagement, our intern chatted with participants via Twitter, and players who scored a hit had the option to upload a photo of their triumph to their Facebook page. Participants who felt generous and/or guilty were able to make monetary donations to our intern’s college fund via an embedded PayPal link.

The Success

Despite the absence of corporate backing, the Intern Abuser experience was a huge success. During our inaugural two-day event, we entertained our participants with 2,150 rounds of mechanized mayhem over the course of an estimated 20 hours of game play, averaging a new player every 33.49 seconds. Virtual sharpshooters managed to activate 850 targets from the comfort of their Web browsers for the dubious benefit of our hapless intern.

From start to finish, the queue was always full, with participants lining up for a 30-minute wait well before the first shot was fired. Even with wait times in excess of 60 minutes, many participants returned several times to test their skill, and some fans stayed online for the entire event.

"Intern Abuser is one of the most innovative and fun live+social broadcasting events we've seen on the Ustream platform," said Scott Roesch, Head of News & Entertainment Business Development, Ustream. "We're looking forward to doing more with Neo-Pangea's merry band of mad media scientists."

Project Services

  • Strategy
  • User Experience
  • Conceptualization
  • R and D Prototyping
  • Copy and Content
  • Animation
  • Illustration
  • Sound Design
  • Video Production
  • Design
  • Development
  • Post Editorial