Nuit Blanche 2: Interdisciplinary collaboration has far-reaching Tentacles

Mobile gamers packing iPhone and iPod touch devices will be able to wrap their hands around Tentacles, a new application and gaming experience, to be premiered at this year’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival.

The result of interdisciplinary collaboration, Tentacles was co-developed by the York University Mobile Media Lab, the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab and the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) Mobile Experience Lab.

Right: An example of what Tentacles looks like when someone is interacting with it on a screen

York design Professor Michael Longford, OCAD Professor Geoffrey Shea and Rob King, head of applied research and production at the Canadian Film Centre, led an interdisciplinary research team of graduate and undergraduate students from design, visual art, music and business to create Tentacles.

The interactive public gaming performance will take place at Toronto’s Lennox Contemporary Gallery, 12 Ossington Ave., from dusk until dawn on Oct. 3. It is free and open to the public. To participate, players simply download the Tentacles application to an iPhone or iPod touch from the App Store and bring it along to the gallery the night of Nuit Blanche. A limited number of test devices will be available for those who would like to participate but don’t own an Apple device.

Tentacles is a unique application for the iPhone/iPod touch that turns the devices into mobile game controllers. In an innovative concept linking the real and virtual worlds, each Tentacles player controls a squid-like creature by using the device’s touch screen interface. When players log in together, their individual creatures populate a deep oceanic world, which can only be experienced when projected onto an external, shared surface.

Left: Using the mobile game controller for Tentacles on an iPhone

Whether played indoors or out, projected onto walls, in theatres, stadiums, giant outdoor screens or on the side of a building, the application features mesmerizing visualizations of tentacled forms that evoke sea creatures found deep near the ocean floor. The primitive organisms wind and undulate in an inky pool, responding to each user’s finger gliding across the touch screen. As the creatures interact, players must make the decision to “share” or “scare”: for as they collide, a tentacle’s tip is capable of damaging another creature by disturbing its valuable constituent particles, dubbed “tenticules”.

The innovative user experience of Tentacles is enhanced by a lush and ever-shifting soundscape. As each player joins the game, his or her device plays one of a series of short compositions that layer onto those already playing, intermingling voices to create an evocative sonic environment. 

An ongoing project, Tentacles is funded by the Consortium on New Media, Creative, and Entertainment R&D in the Toronto Region (CONCERT), led by York, with support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation and participation from Apple Canada. Tentacles is the first of a series of applications made possible by the team’s innovative recasting of existing technology.

For more information about CONCERT, contact Allan Anderson, CONCERT administrator, at The Tentacles development team can be contacted at