Perping @ The Cheltenham Science Festival


This week I got to take my breath controlled tennis game (Perping), to the cheltenham science festival. We set up a booth and convinced several hundred people to have a go at the game. Doing all this in the day while manically writing an ace paper at night has been fairly exciting. On top of all that, I got to dress up as some kind of historical tennis umpire in order to run the event (with help from Matthew Olden), including wearing an original 1920s rowing blazer (with only a small amount of blood on it and minor repairs). Taken together with Brendan’s brilliant set design it was a real case of Game, Set and Patch (ouch).

Perping involves wearing our respiration-monitor gasmasks, and breathing to control your paddle and feels like the arcade classic: Pong.  It allows two players to control the paddles in a basic tennis like simulation. In PerPing breath is the only control interface used. Players are required to accurately manipulate their paddles at increasing speed in order to successfully score points. Players see a representational chart of their breathing (or more accurately their paddle position) displayed continuously on their side of the screen.

At its most basic level, PerPing makes use of a direct mapping from paddle movement to breath flow volume, that is if a player is breathing in their paddle is moving up, if they are breathing out their paddle is moving down and if they hold their breath, the paddle should remain fixed. The speed of the paddle is mapped to the flow rate measured by the gas mask canister, thus breathing hard will move the paddle faster.

This has got to be one of my favourite uses yet of the gas masks. It was designed to be a portable and easy to demonstrate prototype for the breath sensing technology, in contrast to breathless, which while fascinating lacked somewhat on the portability front.


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