Summary

Virsual is a wireless, ride-on rocking horse equipped with its own motion sensor device. As riders saddle up a 3D game is activated and displayed on screen. The hardware is an off-the-shelf wireless USB device, which is tracking rocking motion and head turns. The body is a 3D contemporary version of a horse type creature, with an exaggerated cartoony asthetic, feauturing large blue eyes, a pale yellow body and brown saddle. It was developed by Melbourne firm Eness, and was designed and manufactured locally.

It was acquired as part of it winning the Melbourne Museum Acquisition Prize in the State of Design Awards held in July, 2004.

Physical Description

Cartoon-like "horse" with yellow plastic body and brown plastic saddle. The horse has aluminium foot bar at the front and an aluminium rocking mechanisum. The facial feautres have been exaggerated with large blue eyes and a large grey coloured nose.

Significance

Virsual is a clever fusion of design and new technologies, demonstrating how new manufacturing technologies, software and design can be brought together in innovative ways. It utilises contemporary technologies in an innovative user-friendly way.

Virsual is also significant because it pushes the boundaries between technology, interactivitity and a traditional childhood play thing. The concept of a modern rocking horse which fuses new technologies with the well loved rocking horse is a way of looking towards the past but at the same time embracing the present. As such it plays into the curiosity of experiencing a new concept within an accepted and loved format.

Virsual is a wireless, ride-on rocking horse equipped with its own motion sensor device. As riders saddle up a 3D game is activated and displayed on screen. The hardware is an off-the-shelf wireless USB device, which is tracking rocking motion and head turns. The body is a 3D contemporary version of a horse type creature, with an exaggerated cartoony asthetic, feauturing large blue eyes, a pale yellow body and brown saddle.

The game interaction has been designed to mimic the "true life" motion of a rocking horse so that by rocking faster, the rider increases their speed across the terrain. Riders journey through a vast 3D simulated environment on Virsual's Island, along the way travelling through fields, collecting apples and horse shoes, and heading towards the end of The game includes encounters with "Advice-Dispensing" Chickens, Friendly Fish and Giant Snails help guide. It features a customised sound track commissioned to accompany the rider through the game.

Developed by Melbourne firm Eness, Virsual was designed and manufactured locally. It is hand assembled from customised materials, the body is moulded through state of the art C& C Machining, The rocking structure is made of plywood, reinforced with aluminium. The software was entirely built in-house using the DirectX graphic library.

At present Eness has produced only a single prototype of Virsual. However the firm has agreed to make another Virsual for the Museum collection, at the cost of manufacturing the components. Museum Victoria would supply the computer and screen from its own stock of equipment.


Virsual was first shown at Experimenta as part of The House of Tomorrow exhibition, which commenced its Australian tour in Melbourne in 2003 and will continue until 2005.

It seems likely that this concept could soon be produced under licence. Having the early prototype of this type of game captures a moment of future dreaming. It has been widely featured in Australian and International press including Wired magazine and The Age. It is also touring to Seoul, Korea in 2004.

Virsual, the Digital Rocking Horse, won the Melbourne Museum Acquisition Prize in the 2004 State of Design Awards held in July. It was chosen for the award from the design projects short-listed for the Design 2004 Exhibition, for meeting the following criteria:
- Is an outstanding example of Victorian design excellence.
- Effectively communicates the nature of the design process to the general public.
- Is in a form that will ensure its long-term survival in the museum collection, and its suitability for display in the future.
- Reflects the current collecting areas of the Museum, especially in the areas of industrial design, product design, architecture and urban design, fashion and textile design, and sustainability.

A selection panel to construct a shortlist comprised: Dr Patrick Greene, CEO; Dr Robin Hirst, Director, Collections, Research & Exhibitions; Sara Thorn, Curator of Design; Dr Richard Gillespie, Head, History & Technology; Matthew Churchward, Senior Curator, Technology & Innovation. The 2004 State of Design Awards international judging panel made the final choice from the shortlist.

Subsequently, Virsual also won the People's Choice Award, based on votes by visitors to the exhibition.

Virsual is an excellent example of innovative contemporary design, and an appropriate item to commence the museum's Design Collection, which aims to focus on innovations in technology, materials and new manufacturing methods. Virsual is an example of integrated cutting edge technology and design, reflecting current technologies and aesthetics but also hinting at the future, where integration between a software game and user-friendly interactive could become more common place.

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