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Shadow Play


My Role

5 weeks, 2018

Spacial Interaction Designer (concept, research, illustration)


BirdLife-Naturzentrum Neeracherrid was looking for concept designs for their upcoming exhibition on bird song.


BirdLife-Naturzentrum Neeracherrid


Katharina Durrer (concept, research, coding)
Manuel Leuthold (concept, research, coding)


Create a fun and interactive experience for guests of all ages to play and listen to local bird songs. 

Initial Conceptualizing and Research

Getting to know the problem

We first got to know the birdlife center, our clients, and the space available to better understand the problem, end-users, and metrics. 

Initial research and ideation

We then spent time researching birds and their songs, along with reviewing other exhibitions. Discussing our ideas throughout, we decided upon a focal point of an interactive game that would teach the user of local birds and their distinct songs. 

Technical Development

Why we chose the leap motion

Our idea surrounded the concept of the guest using their hand to control a "bird" and the bird's song. For this reason, we decided to go with the leap motion to accomplish tracking the user's movement. 

Tracking hand gestures

We started with tracking the hand, specifically when the user had their hand “pinched” vs “open” to indicate when their bird was singing.

Making it "natural"

Next we implemented the bird songs to occur when the user’s hand was “open,” and using a low pass filter when the user’s hand was in the process of opening. This gave the user’s “bird” a more natural sound, going from low to high, instead of immediately starting high with an open hand.

How new birds would be introduced

The final step was implementing the different bird’s and their unique songs. With trials and errors on how or when the bird should change, we decided upon that when the users hand was removed and came back again, a new bird would be introduced.

Visual Development

Creating the scene

With the user using their hand’s shadow as a bird, we decided the visuals should be more “shadow-like” as well. We created a mood board to determine the overall look we were going for, then went through several different stages of visuals.

Parallax effect on the backgrounds

To add more of a realistic background for the user, we decided to add a parallax effect to different illustrated layers. With the leap motion being better at detecting an up and down motion over side to side, our virtual world became a vertical exploration rather than horizontal.

Spotlight effect

A flashlight-like spotlight effect focused on the user’s “bird” was used to bring back the concept of a shadow.


Audio Development

Experimenting with bird songs

For the bird songs, we experimented with different lengths of songs and different local birds and their songs in order to come up with something that was entertaining and the right length for the user to listen to and play around with.

Final Design

The space we chose

We decided upon a dark portion of the gallery, with a plain white wall for our work to be projected on.

Our final setup

A projector pointed at the white wall and a podium. The podium held the leap motion hidden in a box with a green dot indicating the ideal place for the visitor’s hand. Shadowed footprints on the ground gave the user an idea of where they should be positioned, so as not to block the projector. For the bird songs, we used small wireless speakers positioned above the user where one would generally hear birds. A second speaker played behind the user with sounds of a forest.

BirdLife center
Concept sketch
Stages sketch
Leap motion
Background illustration
Gallery setup

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