What's the online equivalent of a dozen Playmobil dudes?
November 18, 2009 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the online equivalent of a dollhouse, or Lego or Playmobil people — a Flash/Java/whatever app that lets the user dress up a bunch of characters with different clothes/props/features/whatever and arrange them in a scene. I know I've seen stuff like this on websites for kids. The catch is, we need this for a psycholinguistics experiment we're running, which means we need to be able to run the app on our own server and record the user's actions (with consent, of course). Does something like this exist?

Right now, we're running the experiment in person.

It goes like this: The subject gets a pile of Playmobil dudes with different outfits and hats and hairdos and props that can be swapped in and out. They read a short description (f'rinstance, "Six pirates are standing in a circle. There are two pirates with swords. A few girls are looking at the pirates.") and then are asked to arrange the toys to match it, and we take a picture of whatever they come up with. The hypothesis has to do with how the wording of the description affects the scene they set up.

It doesn't have to be pirates and girls. It doesn't even have to be people. They don't need pirate hats or swords or whatever. We just need two or three kinds of $X, with two or three interchangeable $Y's that can go on each $X, and the ability to line up the $X's in different ways.

None of us are fast or slick enough as programmers to make it worth writing our Flash game (or whatever) that works like this. But if there is an existing one, even if we have to do some tweaking and tinkering to get it to do what we want, that would be very good news — it's much easier to recruit subjects if they can participate from home, for starters.

posted by nebulawindphone to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. I am not sure if this is what you are looking for, but a student just turned in to me a project made with Pixton which is a comic strip making application. It lets you create very customized characters and arrange them in scenes. Might be worth checking out.
posted by Tesseractive at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2009

Pixton looks good — in fact, looks a lot nicer than anything I was expecting to see — but it's unclear to me if it'll let us record what the users do in a straightforward way. "Create an account at this website; Okay, now set up this scene; Okay, now go through this set of menus to save it; Okay, now copy down this URL and email it to this address...." is perhaps more jumping through hoops than is ideal for us to put our subjects through, if only because it raises the odds that they'll decide it's a pain in the ass and they'd rather not participate.

But maybe it'll work. I'll look closer, and in the meantime I'm still open to other suggestions.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:17 PM on November 18, 2009

If you have any money, this should be pretty easy for a flash programmer to make, even a student. I took one flash programming class and I'm pretty sure I could make this. Since you're at a school, maybe you could contact whoever teaches Flash programming and they can hook you up with a student, so you can get the exact thing you need.
posted by amethysts at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2009

eLouai has doll makers, room makers, house makers and scene makers that do most of what you've described, although I don't know how well it could be adapted to your experiment.
posted by amyms at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2009

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