Building a better dance HUD

Introducing the all-new Basilique Performing Arts Company Dance HUD. The ideal high-performance dance HUD built especially for dance performers. The HUD was scripted by Harvey Crabsticks. I designed the user interface.
Introducing the all-new Basilique Performing Arts Company Dance HUD. The ideal high-performance dance HUD built especially for dance performers. The HUD was scripted by Harvey Crabsticks. I designed the user interface.

Over the years, many of the new Dance HUD systems on the market have become much more advanced. One of the most visible “benefits” they now offer are web interfaces that make them easier to customise and configure. In theory, managing your playlists in a web interface sounds like a great leap forward, as the old notecard method would get a bit finicky and leave loads of room for syntax error.

In practice however, I’ve noticed these websites to be generally underpowered, unreliable and extremely slow. The system I was using was becoming slower and slower to configure, load and select playlists of dances. Maybe it was the sheer amount of people trying to access the same database at peak times. Maybe they were just badly coded. I’m not sure. But what was certain, was that the lag between my input and the website’s/HUD’s output was getting longer and longer. This made dancing at busy clubs increasingly more difficult and much less enjoyable. Worse, because staged dance performances require near perfect timing and reliability, the Dance HUD I was used (a market leader that cost me almost L$1000) for previous shows (like the Burlesque Spectacular) just wouldn’t do what I needed to do.

We ran into all of these problems and more when preparing for Romeo + Juliet. Playlists would take ages to build on the web interface, eons to load in world, and sometimes just wouldn’t load at all. Invites (where you invite others to dance with you) were unreliable, and in a performance setting, would require you to scroll through pages and pages of menus to hunt and find the person you wanted to invite. These are performance killers. Worst of all, our messages asking for help by the creators were either lost or ignored; we don’t really know, as responses never materialised.

After much frustration and near exasperation, our stage manager Harvey decided he could build a better dance HUD. Because it had to work under the most demanding conditions, he coded it with only the essential features – no frills, no fancy bells and certainly no whistles. It just does what it says it will do, no more, no less. Two beneficial side-effects of a more elegant and streamlined design are that this HUD is considerably lighter in the script load department (less lag) and way more straightforward to use. In practice, the HUD loads playlists immediately and is steadfastly reliable, having now been tested in weeks of performances with over 30 avatars in close proximity.

Today, Harvey has made the HUD available on the marketplace for anyone to purchase and use. I have no financial interest in this product whatsoever, I just know what I like, and I love this HUD. It has numerous advantages over existing dance HUDs on the market today. The BPAC Dance HUD 1.0 is

  • faster when configuring dance playlists
  • more reliable when loading new playlists and inviting synchronised dancers
  • way easier to use due to fewer options and features that you typically won’t use (you can learn everything you need to know about using this HUD in less than 5 minutes)
  • allows you to repeat dances in a playlist (which other HUDs don’t do, but is near essential for dance performances)
  • enables quick invites by offering only names in the menu that have the same group tag as you
  • coded to enable time-elapsed style playlists which is much, much better for choreographing dance sequences to music
  • a steal at L$500, making it half the price of most Dance HUDs on the market

There is a disadvantage in that it currently only allows you to add 9 playlists, but Harvey tells me he plans to expand the playlist slots in the future after ensuring he has the basics absolutely right.

Whilst Harvey is a very capable coder; in his own words, he has the “graphic design skills of a chimpanzee”. So, when he was ready to release the Dance HUD on the Second Life Marketplace, he asked me to design the user interface, and the above image is the result!

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a Dance HUD (Heads Up Display) is an attachable interface that sits on your screen that enables you to choose and play dance animations in Second Life. Similar to going to a club and clicking a dance ball to dance either by yourself or as a couple, a dance HUD let’s you bring your dances wherever you go in Second Life. Considering the alternative (searching for dance animations in your inventory and playing them independently one at a time), it’s a considerably easier way to express yourself through dance, for fun and performance.

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