MicroRangers Promotional Videos

As press outreach begins for MicroRangers (here’s yesteryday’s piece from NY1) I wanted to collect these videos in one place, designed to offer a taste of the game.

This is a 10 minute Let’s Play Highlights Tour of MicroRangers. It features the Case of the Bioluminescent Blackout, and the start of the 6th Extinction challenge:

This is a 2 minute edited version of the Bioluminescent Blackout from the above video:

This is a 1 minute edited version of the start of the 6th Extinction challenge from the above video:

This is the Bioluminescent Blackout seen exclusively from the mobile device’s perspective (no in-room video or sound):

If you are learning about MicroRangers from this post, to learn more about what it is go here and how it was made here.

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Preview image from Dreams of a Haida Child

In just a few months the Museum will be releasing a new packet of activity sheets designed to engage families in our historic Hall of Northwest Coast Indians. At the same time we will release a new app, developed with Geomedia, to offer a unique augmented reality experience. Below is a sneak peak screenshot from the latest demo, which offers a good idea of how this will all work.

First is the physical sheet itself – which, in this case, starts by challenging the family to look for a particular object in the hall from the Haida nation (teaser: it’s a puffin mask). Once found, the center of the page asks the child to color in the mask (below you can see the orange pencil lines on the sheet), featuring art created by Shoshannah Green, a contemporary Haida artist. When the page is viewed through the AR app, an animated pedestal appears supporting a 3D-manipulatable puffin mask, texture mapped with the art from the page. In other words, the child visitor gets to color on paper and then collaborate with the Haida artist to co-create the 3D version. Finally, augmented behind the mask is a curvilinear watercolor scene, digitally painted by the same Haida artist, presenting a special moment from an original story printed on the reverse side of the sheet, featuring a Haida child and the puffin mask; if you look close at the photo you can see once again how the child’s art is reflected within the dramatic scene, where the Haida child triumphantly holds aloft the colored puffin mask.


(The project was initially developed with Global Kids Youth Leaders in a 2014 summer camp, which you can read more about here.)

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MicroRangers To The Rescue! A new mobile app from the Museum brings an invisible world to life

This season’s issue of Rotunda, our Member magazine, features a two-page spread inaugurating the launch of our new mobile game, MicroRangers. You can download it here or read it below (you can also learn more at MicroRangers.org, where you can download the “targets” required to try out the augmented reality).

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MicroRangers To The Rescue!
A new mobile app from the Museum brings an invisible world to life

The world’s most amazing ecosystems are in danger, and it’s up to you to save them! That’s the premise of MicroRangers, a new mobile game for Android and iOS smartphones that uses augmented reality to turn the Museum’s first floor into a series of animated adventures that highlight how microbial life can impact the health and security of larger life forms like towering trees, charismatic animals, and, yes, humans.

“Most biodiversity is too small to be seen without a microscope. But those microbes are just as important as other forms of life in keeping ecosystems healthy,” says Susan Perkins, who advised on MicroRangers and is co-curator of The Secret World Inside You exhibition about the human microbiome.

The game has been in development since 2014, as Museum educators have worked with high schoolers in Museum programs as well as with game designers at Playmatics and Geomedia to create a unique experience based on iconic exhibits and dioramas that many longtime Members know well—but, through MicroRangers, may rediscover in a new way.

“Well-designed games are powerful learning spaces, where players can learn through experimentation and failure, which is the nature of science as well,” says Barry Joseph, associate director for digital learning at the Museum. “They also serve as great tools for collaborative learning alongside friends and family.”

Game play begins in the Hall of Biodiversity, which serves as a sort of home base. From there, players are dispatched to solve science-based mysteries in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, Hall of North American Forests, and the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, with directions, clues, and three-dimensional animations popping up on their phones.

Nine levels, each posing different challenges and introducing different lessons based in the Museum’s halls, create new and interesting connections that offer a different way to interact with even the most familiar exhibits.

One challenge in the Hall of North American Forests, for instance, pits players against the scourge of chestnut blight. Using their phones, players eliminate the devastating fungus from trees that spring to digital life all around the hall. Augmented reality coins, available at the Membership desk in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, help bring characters in the game, like the animated scientists you meet on missions, to life.

“The way we’re using augmented reality will mean the game is all around you,” says Hannah Jaris, a senior coordinator who helped lead the development of MicroRangers.

With scientist characters guiding players through a diversity of ecosystems, newly minted MicroRangers will also be able to learn about the tools and techniques researchers use to study life in forests, on coral reefs, and everywhere in between.

Many players will play just the first level to get a taste of the game—it takes about 20 minutes, Joseph estimates—while others could play through to completion, exploring all three halls in depth over the course of several hours. And frequent visitors like Members can play over the course of multiple trips to the Museum at any pace they choose. Whichever way visitors play, says Joseph, MicroRangers feels like a full game experience for both casual players and more dedicated gamers.

Museum educators collaborated on MicroRangers with teenagers, the app’s natural audience, on everything from content and game design to early voice-overs for the game’s characters—in large part, Joseph says, to show that the Museum is not just a place youth can come to learn, but one where they can contribute.

“From the very start, we wanted young people to be not just participants in a focus group, but co-designers of their own science education,” says Joseph.

And while MicroRangers has already been a learning experience for the youth and staff who helped develop the game, designers say the ways people play the game will provide design lessons for the future. How users are playing the game and what activities and interactions they embrace or ignore will help to shape the experiences offered by future Museum games.

“The ideal Museum visit is also the ideal game,” says Joseph. “You connect with exhibits, connect with the people around you, and learn something new.”

MicroRangers is free and available to download from the iOS App Store and Google Play. To learn more, visit amnh.org/MicroRangers, and visit the Membership desk in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda to pick up augmented reality coins to play the game. (Limited quantities, while supplies last.)

MicroRangers is generously supported by a grant from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

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Digital R&D at the Met’s MediaLab: An interview with Marco Castro Cosio & Neal Stimler

Last month we held an informal “Walk in the park” – colleagues from the  Metropolitan Museum of Art (on the opposite side of Central Park) paid us a visit and then we returned with them to check out their MediaLab. Below is my interview with them at the time, recently shared on DMLcentral, re-posted below.

Museum’s MediaLab Explores Digital Innovation

I recently took a walk across the park from American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), where I work, to our sibling museum founded on the other side of Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the first time, I got to go behind the scenes and visit their MediaLab, run by Marco Castro Cosio. After the tour, I met with both Marco and Neal Stimler, digital asset specialist in Collection Information. Both work together in the museum’s centralized Digital Department. I spoke with them about the Met MediaLab and what roles it plays spreading digital innovation throughout the museum. We talked about edible 3D objects and telepresence robots, cats, Minecraft, hip-hop, and the importance of digital innovation spaces within museums.

Marco, please introduce yourself.

Marco: Hi, my name is Marco Castro Cosio. I am manager of the MediaLab here at the Met. I have a background in art and technology, coming out of ITP at NYU. I was working as a curator and artist before coming to The Met and also worked at the Queens Museum as a teaching artist and as visitor experience manager at the museum.

And Neal?

NealStimler-20webNeal: I am a Neal Stimler, digital asset specialist in Collections Information at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I started my career as a print art historian working on German Expressionist prints and American art between the two World Wars. Responding to the critical importance of digital technologies, I shifted my professional practice to become an interdisciplinary technologist and creative strategist. I now work on helping to digitize the museum’s collections through workflow design, policy, strategy and wearable technology. I’m a collaborator and friend of the Met MediaLab.

Thank you both for joining us today to talk about media labs in museums. Let’s start by talking about the MediaLab here The Met. What is its history?

Marco: Met MediaLab was started approximately three years ago and was run by Don Undeen. MediaLab is an innovation R&D hub for the museum. We invite staff and outside agents — startup companies, research institutes, universities, creative technologists, artists and scientists — to experiment with emerging technologies within the museum context.

We started with a 3D printing hackathon, where creative technologists and artists were invited to scan the collection and create models that people could download and remix to make collections of their own. After the 3D hackathon, we started looking further into different emerging technologies. Continue reading

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If Star Wars VII Was Reviewed As A Museum Exhibit Would It Still Be A Blockbuster? (spoiler-free)

If Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was a new museum exhibit, would it be the latest blockbuster or more like a visit to a dusty collection behind glass? This spoiler-free movie review attempts to find out, using museum criteria to illuminate the highs and lows of our return to a galaxy far, far away.

Criteria 1: Connects You With The People Around You
I watched the new film opening night flanked by my best-friend from 2nd grade, with whom I first saw the original trilogy, and my more recent daddy-friend, raising a trilogy of his own back home (his oldest two the same age as my kids). We had a blast together, returning to the past and delighting in the new story that unfolded before us.
Rating: A+

Criteria 2: Offers Remarkable Specimens From the Collections
Oh, and what a collection… of characters that is. Even with this reboot of the franchise erasing decades of previously-known-as-canon created through novels, games and more, the new writers and directors had a plethora of old friends to invite to the party. However, as much as you might come to see an old favorite (I hope it’s not a stretch to use here the word “dinosaur”) what delights is when you leave having discovered something new. If anything, the new film succeeds and is at its best establishing the new range of characters – those struggling in both sides of the light – and leaving you wanting to see where they go next.
Rating: A

Criteria 3: Transports You To New Worlds
Love the first two trilogies or hate them, there’s no denying one of the main characters has always been the immersive, expressionistic settings. Whether desert, swamp, cloud, or volcano, the films still feel like trips across the galaxy. But with the foregrounding of characters, the new film leaves the backgrounds in, well, the background, and the sense of discovering new worlds in the past.
Rating: C+

Criteria 4: Inspires a Sense of Awe and Wonder
On this count, the film is a mixed bag. As the title declares, the new film deals with the return of the force, which at the character-level means watching our new friends discover powers they never knew they had. Somewhat like watching Neo master the constructed illusion of the Matrix, these moments in the film never failed to make a part of me glow bright with the force. But wonder? Now, that’s something else. I’ve never been one to criticize the convoluted politics of Episodes I-III. But at least they made sense. In Episode VII the political context that drives the plot  is so scantily drawn, it’s impossible to understand. No spoiler here, but one faction is called the Resistance; but resistance to whom or what is never explained. World-building is about grounding human-scale stories in a vast fictional world you long to explore with eyes full of wonder. Not so, alas, in Episode VII.
Rating: Awe: B+; Wonder: D

Is Episode VII more like returning to a beloved exhibit or visiting a new future-facing temporary exhibit? At times it threatens to sink into the mire of dusty objects behind glass, lacking a knowledgeable and dynamic guide to elucidate meaning and provide a personal connection. But most often, like a nostalgic visit to a beloved exhibit, the film satisfies the warm glow of memory with the insight that comes from a more mature vantage point. Ultimately, however, Episode VII is more like a new exhibit, giving tribute to past curators while clearly establishing an experience more in fit with the new generation, designed to inspire first-time visitors to return again and again in the years to come.

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Planning For Disruption: A Use Case in Digital Learning

The following is not directly museum-related but I wanted to repost it here because the digital learning innovations I address have relevance for us all.

For many years I have worked with the Covenant Foundation to bring digital learning into Jewish learning contexts – day schools, summer camps, congregational school, museums and more. Today they posted a series of important articles and interviews about the impact the Foundation has had in this area over the past 25 years. Two of those articles talk about my recent work with digital badges for learning within the congregational school at my local temple.

The larger piece – The Near Future: Digital Badging in Jewish Education – puts that work in context while my piece, re-posted below, talks about how meaningful disruptions can put within reach opportunities for learning which previously seemed inaccessible.

Planning For Disruption: A Use Case in Digital Learning

When powerful, new approaches to learning are introduced through digital tools, meaningful disruptions occur along the way.

This doesn’t mean everything that’s difficult is worthwhile. There are myriad challenges facing educators–and sustaining innovative practices which require additional resources is just one. But if the disruptions to on-going practices and expectations are anticipated and strategic, they can open up space for future innovations. When this happens, new approaches which previously seemed inaccessible, are suddenly within reach.

For example, take Project 613, a new optional learning opportunity offered by my synagogue, the Reform Temple of Forest Hills. Last year, with support from the Covenant Foundation, the religious school at RTFH introduced a new program to its 120 or so students. Project 613 offered almost three dozen digital badges organized into 5 Jewish-learning themed categories, and challenged students to complete missions (amongst a list of hundreds) and submit evidence. While it was far from perfect, the pilot year produced over 500 pieces of evidence, generating scores of photographs, drawings, Minecraft builds, and more, each demonstrating a connection made by the students, between something in their lives and some Jewish content or value.

For many of the stakeholders involved, however, Project 613 caused confusion. This was anticipated, as it didn’t fit into any existing box. In other words, it challenged – or disrupted – their idea of what learning is supposed to look like.

Project 613 is an interest-driven project, an opt-in system predicated on the passions of the students. This raises lots of questions for teachers. Should (or would) they be held responsible if their students didn’t participate? How would they find the time in their busy schedules to review (and provide feedback on) evidence submitted by each of their students?

Parents were held responsible for setting up their children’s online accounts. But if this wasn’t homework, should parents feel pressure to get their child to participate? Inversely, if their children were pursuing a badge, were they supposed to help, and spend their limited family time on this activity? How much help could, or should, the parents expect from the school?

And then of course, there were questions from the participating students, too. This wasn’t homework. And while the badges were certainly related to Jewish learning, they also connected students with their personal and often non-scholastic activities, like playing video games, watching movies, and eating at delis. Students needed to figure out for themselves why they should pursue a badge and why they should care if their peers knew of their achievements. Equally important, they needed to figure out how to choose a badge and select from the infinite pathways available before them to pursue one.

These are questions raised specifically by Project 613, which is now in its second year. The program might be working. Or it might not. But to the extent the school tackles the questions it raises at a broader level – not just about Project 613 but about digital learning strategies in general – then the implementation can have impact far beyond the goals of any one particular project. If the disruptions are addressed not as problems but as opportunities for growth, then the extra effort put towards addressing them can help everyone involved see the promise of new ways of learning in the digital age.

I think anyone interested in digital learning will find something of interest within the full series.

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Improving the Visitor Experience Through Digital Badges and Big Data: an Interview with Robert Stein of the Dallas Museum of Art

I’m thrilled by my latest interview for DMLcentral, re-posted below. When the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) a few years ago announced it was doing away with museum membership (gasp!), it made big news. Its membership was replaced with an open-badging system called DMA Friends, open to visitors, new and old. I recently contacted Robert Stein, DMA’s deputy director to learn more about DMA Friends, how it empowers visitors, and the ways museum officials analyze the resulting big data to better serve their city.

Robert, Welcome to Mooshme. Please tell us about the Dallas Museum of Art.

The DMA has been in Dallas for 112 years and it’s the largest encyclopedic art collection in the region, the largest cultural venue and organization in North Texas, and it’s really adjacent to the downtown core of Dallas. We’re one of the anchored tenants of the Dallas Arts District, which is the largest arts district in North America.

What challenges were the museum looking to address and how was the design of DMA Friends developed to take that on?

I came to Dallas about three years ago, together with Max Anderson, our director here at the museum [note: Max has now left the DMA and is executive director at the New Cities Foundation]. Max and I had worked together in Indianapolis for quite some time. When we came to Dallas, one of the things we noticed is that while the museum is really a central part of the community, it had a relatively stable attendance over a 10-year period of time. Yet, during that period, Dallas as a city was growing exponentially. We really started to think about what it is like to create a museum that really serves its community, as a city museum. And, in Dallas, like most major metropolitan areas in the U.S., there’s a big disparity between the rich and the poor. A lot of the families here in Dallas, who are less wealthy, just have a hard time bringing their family to any museum, let alone an art museum. And, art museums still have a bit of a stigma of being an elitist sort of institution and a place lots of people think are “not for them.”

So, when we were thinking about that with respect to Dallas, we decided that something that would make a lot of sense for us, and for the museum’s future, is to go to a model of free general admission. The museum had previously charged $10 for access to the permanent collections. So, we decided that what we really wanted to have happen was for the museum to be a place that’s owned by the community. We wanted to be able to facilitate that pop-in visit. So, we dropped the admission charge so that anybody can come to the museum any time we’re open, pop-in for just 5 minutes or 5 hours, and it’s not a matter of $50 to bring your family.

The other thing that we noticed is that it’s sort of strange if we’re saying we want to be open to new people, that the moment you walk in the door, the first question we ask you is: Are you a member? We felt like that probably just reinforces the country club feel that people have when they’re coming to museums. What was and is important to us is that anybody who comes to the museum and wants to belong or participate and plug-in, is welcome to do so. DMA Friends was really a response to that, which said we care more about your participation than your money, and, If you would like to join us and do so through spending time with us, then we’d like you to have that sort of membership for free.

What is DMA Friends?

DMA Friends is a participatory membership program. It’s free to join but focuses on what you do with the museum rather than paying us upfront and getting benefits later. It’s similar to a loyalty program like a frequent flyer program or a shopper’s card or dash card, DMA Friends provides a digital platform to manage your participation with the museum and gives visitors credit for plugging in and participating with all sundry activities across the museum.

The website describes DMA Friends as something that allows visitors to both earn badges and points. Let’s talk about that some more. What might a visitor do to earn points? How does that relate to badges and how might someone looking at someone else’s points or badges understand what they signify? Continue reading

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