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April 22, 2021

The Verb Collective, developed by Justin Berry, critic at the Yale School of Art and principal investigator at the Blended Reality research group, is ready for use and will soon appear on the Unity asset store. 

The Verb Collective is a toolkit designed to aid artists in exploring interactive media and to help non-specialized instructors teach interactive media as well as virtual and augmented reality. The Verb Collective is designed to fit seamlessly into the interface of Unity, and though it leverages some of the same structures of visual coding environments, it is intentionally designed without specialized interfaces.

The feature that makes The Verb Collective different from similar toolkits is its use of what are called “verbs.” Verbs are short scripts that have very targeted functions. Verbs, when triggered, can trigger other verbs on the original gameobject or else trigger verbs on a separate gameobject. Trigger verbs are used to begin interaction chains (example: The verbs “whenTyped” is used to trigger an array of verbs when a character on the keyboard is pressed) while standard verbs are set to wait for a trigger or else activate on start. All types of verbs can be used to trigger an array of verbs at the end of their sequence. Using templates such as “toSample,” users can make their own custom verbs in minutes.  Beginners that want to write their own code from scratch can use the Verb Collective to grab chunks of basic code to copy and paste rather than relying on the internet. As well,  while other popular toolkits are focused either on rapid production or on teaching code itself, the Verb Collective is focused on emergent dynamics and fostering exploratory play

The toolkit includes a number of “starter”’ rooms that exist to provide venues for testing physics interactions, such as a bouncy room, a deep well, and a high plateau. The idea here is that new users can focus on exploring interactions quickly, and begin customizing and fine tuning scenes once they are more comfortable with the interface.

The Verb Collective was first used by students at Hamilton College in New York, NY. In a survey submitted to students, seventy percent said they had no prior experience with programming or with Unity. However, one hundred percent of students found the Verb Collective either useful or very useful in their studies as they learned how to build game scenes and create interactions between objects. As one anonymous student put it,

“I find it very intuitive and [the Verb Collective] makes it easy for someone who doesn’t understand unity to begin playing with creating a world. There are all the verbs you would expect but also plenty to explore and alter for purposes you would not initially consider.”

Hamilton College student

Many of the students at Hamilton who used the Verb Collective are in school studying the humanities. Another anonymous student studying theater compared using the Verb Collective to working on a theater play.

“I find this piece of technology really exciting since it reminds me so much of working on a devised theater piece. While you may go in with a script, idea, or a bricolage of ideas, the verb collective allows you to expand, play, and discover these ideas in ways you may have not considered. I enjoy that simplicity and ability to explore glitches and mistakes as though it were rehearsal for a theatrical piece.”

Hamilton College Student

One hundred percent of respondents said they would use The Verb Collective in future projects.

Do you have a project you’d like to develop but don’t know where to start? Maybe you’re interested in working on a team, but you don’t know what projects are in development that need support. Please contact Blended Reality using our google form for more information. Advising, collaborating, and building dynamic and effective teams are key aspects of Blended Reality’s ongoing mission to support technological experimentation, creative expression, and local and global-level problem solving. Reach out and stay tuned to this blog or more news on the exciting tech projects ongoing at Yale University.