nominated by: Victoria Jones, Bluecadet, USA
institution: MAD (Museum of Arts & Design)
category: Groundbreaking

Bluecadet partnered with the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York to create the signature digital experience for the 60th annual Mad Ball gala, their most important fundraiser. To entertain guests that included design luminaries, museum board members, and honorees such as Madeleine Albright, Jorge M. Pérez, and Barnaba Fornasetti, the museum tasked us with creating a memorable interactive experience that was, true to their mission, an innovative and unexpected celebration of design and the creative process.

Inspired by the playful touch-based interactions in the museum’s current Sonic Arcadesexhibition, we built a gala-friendly tabletop video game based on the arcade classic Pong, an elegantly designed game that’s not only worthy of the museum’s collection, but intuitive to play and instantly engaging. However, instead of the traditional joystick, our game would be controlled by fruit.

Having worked with touch-capacitive sensors in the past, we knew it was technically possible to create a touch-sensitive banana, but we built a prototype to confirm the fruit’s responsiveness. After successful testing, the design was finalized with two touch inputs controlling each digital paddle — apples vs oranges. By touching the right apple, Team Apple’s paddle will slide to the right; touch the left apple, the paddle slides left. Simple. Too simple, really. Enter the “disrupter bananas,” which allow additional players to launch projectiles into the playing field.

After a final phase of designing, soldering, and coding, the fruit of our labor was delivered, installed, and given pride of place in the grand venue. Guests gathered around the game, laughing, spilling drinks, and occasionally crushing fruit — all signs of healthy competition. Over the course of the evening, we composted two dozen apples, oranges, and bananas, we peeled and ate one of our controllers when its authenticity was questioned, and we overheard several competitors inventing creative fruit-based derogatory terms. It was innovative, it was unexpected, it was MAD.