WOW_MITMus_Horiz_BEST

MIT Media Lab research assistant Cati Vaucelle knows the pressures of being a hardcore gamer. The max-level World of Warcraft (WoW) player was co-general manager of her guild before taking a break last September to focus on Ph.D. exams. But she never stopped thinking of the game.

With help from artist Marisa Jahn and Steve Shada, Vaucelle created the WoW Pod, “a cocoon that structures a relationship between your physical body and your avatar,” she says, and provides for advanced players’ every need.

The closet-sized, hexagonal hut features a cone-shaped roof, Viking horns, and wood walls mimicking the videogame’s Orc architecture. Inside it’s homier, with a computer screen and keyboard, digital surround sound, and a wood-stained throne with built-in toilet — eliminating bothersome bathroom breaks.

The Pod’s centerpiece is its AFK (“Away From Keyboard”) Cookset, a kitchenette equipped with fresh spring water, cook pot, and automated stovetop, inspired by Vaucelle’s overheating MacBook.

Utilizing a servo-controlled hot plate, a Semacode reader, and Vaucelle’s self-written software, the AFK creates a dialog between a player’s physical and digital worlds. Users pick from the Pod’s eight hand-packaged mini-meals (a combo of fast snacks and instant soup) with game-inspired names like Roast Raptor and Lynx Steak. Once a meal is chosen, users scan a Semacode tag that activates the hot plate, adjusts cooking time and temperature, and triggers avatar behaviors such as culinary instructions, mealtime announcements, and napping while you dine.

Vaucelle says WoW players “love” the pod and cookset, but isolating gamers isn’t her only intent.

“I [want] to look into the cookset as means to provoke exchange, discussions about the food lives of players in relation to their habits,” she writes on her website. “They take care of their avatar — feed them, give them water, make them do crazy adventures. Now their avatar will take care of them.”

WoW Pod is on display at the MIT Museum through September 2009.

>> Sedentary Masterpiece: makezine.com/go/wowpod