C. S. Pinhanez, J. W. Davis, S. S. Intille, M. Johnson, A. Wilson, A. F. Bobick, and B. Blumberg, "Physically Interactive Story Environments," IBM Systems Journal, vol. 39, pp. 438-455, 2000.
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Most interactive stories, such as hypertext narratives and interactive movies, achieve an interactive feel by allowing the user to choose between multiple story paths. This paper argues that in the case of real environments where the users physically interact with a narrative structure, we can substitute the choice mechanisms by creating situations that encourage and permit the user to actively engage his body in movement, provided that the story characters are highly reactive to the user’s activity in small, local windows of the story. In particular, we found that compelling interactive narrative story systems can be perceived as highly responsive, engaging, and interactive even when the overall story has a single-path structure, in what we call a "less choice, more responsiveness" approach to the design of story-based interactive environments. We have also observed that unencumbering, rich sensor technology can facilitate local immersion as the story progresses – users can act as they typically would without worrying about manipulating a computer interface. To support these arguments, the paper describes the physical structure, the interactive story, the technology, and the user experience of four projects developed at the MIT Media Laboratory: "The KidsRoom" (1996), "It / I" (1997), "Personal Aerobics Trainer" (1998), and "Swamped" (1998).


Physical interactive environments, interactive stories, virtual reality, immersion, computer interfaces