The Hyperbolic Reader is a long, glowing octangular box. One of its faces shows a colorful cartoon world. In front of this projection is a large trackball. By moving the trackball the visitor moves through the cartoon world on the screen.
What's it about? Henry's World presents a graphical biography of an eight year-old boy named Henry, by showing his world as he might think of it himself. Like most kids, for Henry the things close by loom large, while distant things become small. In Henry's World the visitor can explore Henry's house, his school, his dreams and his pals. The visitor can enter Henry's bedroom and see his toy collection, see his favorite foods and CDs, or follow one of Henry's conversations. As the visitor moves smoothly through this space of images and words, new parts of the world grow in size and move to the center, while the rest of the world shrinks and slides to the periphery.
What is the experiment? RED is interested in exploring new narrative spaces that are neither linear (like a book or a comic book) nor discontinuous (like hypertext). While the visitor controls where they are in the story, they cannot alter or change it. RED is also researching the different uses of 2D space in Henry's World. Sometimes Henry's space represents actual physical space (for instance in his house), sometimes it is conceptual space (for instance what's in his school desk), while sometimes it represents narrative space (for instance when he is talking with his friends.)
How does it work? The Hyperbolic Reader is based on the Hyperbolic Tree technology from Inxight Software, Inc. (A Xerox New Enterprise). A hyperbolic space is one where as things move to the edge they get smaller and smaller so that they never really reach the edge. The structure of the story of Henry's World is a tree with many branches. At each node of the tree is either a cartoon or a speech bubble. While parts of the tree grow and shrink, the structure never changes. The trackball allows a reader to move different nodes to the center of the screen. The thousands of cartoons in Henry's World were all drawn on a computer, using a painting program.