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Wildlife Crossing

Wildlife Crossing is a multi-sensory and interactive diorama including motion and bodily gestures for the Carnegie Natural History Museum.

6 Weeks


UX research, UX/UI Design, Motion Design


01  - Project Background 

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History wants to improve the user experience of the museum, which has remained relatively static for the past decade. The goal of museums is to collect, educate, preserve, interpret, and display objects of artistic, cultural, or scientific significance for the study and education of the public. (ICOM). Drawing inspiration from this guiding principle, we explored ways to modernization and expand the museum with the following question in mind:

6 Weeks


Visual Design, Motion Design, Prototyping with Leap Motion


with Himani Auplish,

Eva Chung, Ivar Dameron


How can Carnegie Museum of Natural History create an engaging, interactive experience with its pre-existing exhibits that continues to educate visitors?

When we visited the museum, our team unanimously agreed that the primary group of visitors were families. Children would run to the exhibits, interact with them, run away, draw their parent's attention before moving to the next one. Parents or other family members would engage with their children by explaining concepts to them or point out things they see, such as a dinosaur's bone or the seal's habitat.

In this way, parents support children as a guide through the learning experience. This was the primary relationship that lead our next steps.

Understanding the Users

03 - Concept Generation

With the thin glass separating the animals and visitors, these diorama exhibits were like looking into a new world. The animals were frozen in time in these permanent habitats but many them migrated and had seasonal habitats. In this way, the dioramas were not accurate. Environments were not static, they changed depending on when and who they were for.​

This is where we came up with Wildlife Crossing, an interactive exhibit designed for experiential learning and browsing information for parents, children, and individuals to explore animals in their habitats together.​​​​

We decided to go with a youthful and bright approach to appeal to both children and adults. The typeface used was Montserrat (bold). The primary color palette consists of four colors: orange, gold, blue, and purple. Secondary colors are 50% opacity of the primary palette. Tertiary colors are black, gray, and white.

Wildlife Crossing: A Peak into the Wild

Developed in the 1920-30s, The Hall of North American Wildlife is a beloved fixture of the museum collection filled animal dioramas. While massively large and stunning, the installations were static and outdated with the information being difficult to look at, given that they were placed far on the side.

Our team decided to choose this exhibit to focus in on with opportunities to update the dioramas with interactive technology and create a learning experience to teach children about animals and their relationship to the environment. 

The Hall of North American Wildlife

Wildlife Crossing is a multi-sensory exhibit designed for families and individuals to interact with real-life dioramas through motion and gestural detection. Learn, play, and listen to North American Wildlife and take a stroll through the seasons. Play the video to see it in action.

02 - Outcome

Use hand gestures and move your body to interact with the diorama! The diorama incorporates motion sensors and projections so you can browse information, change seasons, and play mini games to learn about animals and the environment they're living in.


Hand Gestures

for browsing information

Returns to display screen


Changes the



Starts the



Hotspot opacity increases


Selects desired hotspot

Body Movement

for experiential learning

Shed the elk's antlers

Shake Head

Shed the elk's coat

Shake Body

Help the elk migrate

Run in Place

Scare off other elk

Stomp Feet

Transforming a static, stationary exhibit into a dynamic, multi-sensory experience involved using three senses: sight, motion, and hearing. The goal was to attract the visitor's attention and keep their engagement with educational information.

To get an idea of how it worked, we constructed a systems diagram map to show the different layers

of the exhibit.

A Multi-Sensory Experience

05 - Prototyping & Technological Investigations

We designed the diorama with several components

The rear projection film allows glass projections to be possible. Speakers are placed on the side for visitors to listen to habitat and animals noises.

Speaker & Rear Projection Film

The computer is placed out of sight and connects the mechanics together. The lights are placed in various areas to specify parts of the exhibit. 

Computer & Spotlights

The motion sensor is placed on top above the animal to track the visitor's movements. Projectors display the info and the background.

Motion Sensors & Projector

At the end of of the six weeks, we finished off with a live demo where visitors could try using the leap motion. A projection was displayed on a blank screen in front, and an area was sectioned off to indicate the motion detection area. The leap motion was placed at the table with the booklets available to take away.

The prototype was created through a combination of After Effects, Leap, Processing, and some Wizard of Oz help. Clips of the proposed diorama were made on After Effects and the Leap was programmed to hover, swipe and tap. When a mini-game hotspot was selected, a video of the game was played to mimic the actual game. 

A Multi-Sensory Experience

One of our team's self-defined goals was to create a working prototype. With this in mind, we looked into two different types of devices that would be able to track motion: Leap motion and Kinect. 

Prototyping with Leap and Kinect

The rear projection film allows glass projections to be possible. Speakers are placed on the side for visitors to listen to habitat and animals noises.

Speaker & Rear Projection Film

The motion sensor is placed on top above the animal to track the visitor's movements. Projectors display the info and the background.

Motion Sensors & Projector

Investigating these two systems allowed for a better understanding of what was plausible especially in the time frame. For the prototype, we decided on using the Leap Motion due to the constraints we had with our iOS software. Since it was strictly gestural, our users could still interact with the diorama.

06 - Reflection

For this project, the scope was defined by our team. Together, our team had set out limitations within the time constraint, identified the client's needs and resources, and designed a working prototype to act as our proposal. The biggest challenge was preserving the museum's values and building onto its existing infrastructure. They understood there was a desire to change but there were limits of what they could and could not do.

Pulling it together within the time frame was the second biggest challenge. With only a basic understanding of code, we quickly researched different types of software to best execute our vision. In the end, we used a mix of two programs and some "Wizard of Oz" magic. It was a thrill and nerve-wracking at the same time. 

The museum's main focus was on evolution and the anthropocene. However, with climate change prevalent today, there was desire to shed light on environmental education for visitors to learn more about these topics.

Raising Awareness about the Anthropocene

The Carnegie Natural History Museum is a scientific institution dating back to 1896. It has been a provider of public engagement that explores and explains evolution in the Pittsburgh community for over a century. While the museum has plenty of years educating and entertaining folks from all over, it desired a modern update. Our team started its exploratory research through observations and museum interviews with staff members. We want to preserve the museum intentions and ways to modernize its exhibits. We synthesized our thoughts and comments in the following observations:

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

04 - Exploratory Research

Many of the museum exhibits had not been updated for years. It was also difficult to physically update the exhibits with current information. They needed to replaced without completely removing and renovating the exhibits.

Outdated Information & Resources

While there was a mutual agreement that the museum needed a modern refresh, there was a hesitancy to completely renovate existing exhibits. Many of the exhibits were special to the museum and had become part of the its own history.

Hesistancy to Renovate from Scratch
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