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Project Background

In 2021, you have been hired by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to improve the user experience of the museum, which has remained relatively static for the past decade. You have been charged with hearing directly from their current visitors to understand what is successful and what can be improved, as well as learning from interactive experiences around the world.

The Challenge

In your proposal to modernize and expand the museum, include the following areas in your approach: information browsing and experiential learning.

Details

Role

Tools

Team

Interaction Design Studio at Carnegie Mellon University


Duration: 6 weeks,

Fall 2021

Conceptual Design
Interaction Design
Visual Design
Project Management

Prototyping

After Effects,

Illustrator, Figma, 

Procreate, Processing

Christina Ip

Himani Auplish

Eva Chung

Ivar Dameron

Outcome

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.

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Browse Information

Use hand gestures to hover over areas and tap to learn about animals and the environment they live in.

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Change Seasons

Swipe to change seasons and see how animals have to adapt to weather and environmental changes yearly.

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Play Games

Get ready for a mini game! Shake, run in place, and more to follow the instructions to help the animals in their habitats.

Static
Dynamic

A Multi-Sensory Experience

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.

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We designed the diorama with several components:

Speaker & Rear Projection Film

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.

Motion Sensors & Projector

The motion sensor is placed on top above the animal to track the visitor's movements. The projectors were right behind to display the information and the background.

Computer & Spotlights

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. 

Experience Walkthrough

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The hall of North American Wildlife was on the second floor. With a large amount of ground to cover, we designed a few touch points guiding your way up to the exhibit.

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Entering the North American Wildlife Hall

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Once you entered the hall, the user would see placemats in front of dioramas indicating the motion detection zone. These ensured that gestures could be captured by the motion sensors. Once the user stepped into the outlined placemats, it initiated the onboarding projections. Afterward, users could interact with the dioramas by browsing information, swiping through seasons and playing games.

A Physical Takeaway

After the in-person museum trip, we finished the experience home with a physical reminder and invited visitors to pick up a booklet about their favorite animal on their way out.

In the booklet, there is more information about the animals and where you see them in person. The purpose of the booklet is to encourage visitors to connect to the environment and serves as a resource to learn more.

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Design Process:
Exploring the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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, coming into the 2021, the museum 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:

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Raising Awareness about the Anthropocene

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.

Outdated & Misaligned Information & Resources

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.

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Hesistancy to Renovate from Scratch

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 near and dear to the museum and had become part of the museum's own history.

Our project brief developed into the following:

How can Carnegie Museum of Natural History create an engaging

interactive experience with its pre-existing exhibits that

continues to educate visitors?

Concept Generation

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.

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Exhibits provide the information and content Children interact with the content and want t
Areas of Interest: The North American Wildlife 
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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. 

Wildlife Crossing:
A Peak into the Wild

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.

 

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.

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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.

An early mockup during concept development

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Interaction Guide

The two ways of interaction we had decided on were hand gestures and body movement. These are simple and easy to learn instructions for onboarding visitors, regardless of their age. In the system diagram, each action listed and its following result. 

 

In the examples below, the hand gestures are primarily for browsing information and the body movements are to play mini-games. In our proposal, each animal has its own version of a mini-game and body movement. The motion

and gesture is related to each game, linking

each movement with an educational weight

for experiential learning. 

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Hand Gestures
for browsing information

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Onboarding

Starts the experience

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Hover

Hotspot opacity increases

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Tap

Selects desired hotspot

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Flick

Returns to display screen

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Swipe

Changes the season

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Body Movement
for experiential learning

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Winter

Shaking head

to shed antlers

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Spring

Shaking body

to shed coat

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Autumn

Clapping fast to

fight other elk

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Summer

Running

to migrate 

Prototyping + Technological Investigations

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. 

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Kinect v1: Skeletal Tracking

The Kinect tracks full body motion, including depth, movements, and figures and the outputs could be in multiple formats. There was more flexiblility when experimenting but the version we had was not compatible with the computer system now (64 bit) and the libraries for v1 is limited.

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Leap Motion: Hand Tracking

The Leap library Tracks four kinds of gestures:
circle, swipe, screen tap, key tap. The libraries are straight forward and easy to use. However, it only tracks hand gestures and not full body movements. The function capability was insufficient for the proposal detection range.

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.

The Prototype

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.

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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. Our visitors enjoyed and believed it, much like the Wizard of Oz! 

Reflection

For this project, the scope was mainly 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. In addition, each team member had their own specific goals including mine, which was to take the lead on animation and visual style.

 

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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. Understanding different consoles and devices and their constrictions was also challenging but it was exciting to work resourcefully to pull off the prototype.

 

The prototype was our team's goal for the end of the semester and pulling it off was a thrill and nerve-wracking at the same time. However, once visitors had stepped up to test it out, it was quite rewarding, especially with that Wizard of Oz magic. ✨