Augmenting the Museum: Pterosaurs, Microbiomes, and More

“omne trium perfectum”
(Latin for everything that comes in threes is perfect)

According to Wikipedia, the rule of three is a writing principle that “suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.” This is certainly turning into quite the season of augmentation at the museum, augmented reality that is. And it in fact is coming in three. I don’t know it if will prove humorous, but it has certainly felt satisfying, even exciting. And whether it is effective remains to be seen.

First, in a few weeks, we will launch Pterosaurs: The Card Game. I’ve talked about the game before, and the youth program that generated it, #scienceFTW. A digital version of the game will be available for download and printing at (eventually… not yet). At the same time, the augmented app will be released, animating certain pterosaurs and allowing them to fly off the cards. It looks awesome. I can’t wait for you to see it. For now, here’s a preview image:

And that’s just a start. A few weeks ago I announced the new MicroMuseum program. The details are starting to come together but, essentially, by the end of May, we’ll have a prototype for a mobile augmented reality game based on imagined microscopic life within our exhibits. Bacteria, viral infections, and more. This augmentation won’t cause pterosaurs to fly. Instead, it will generate augmented videos and interactive microorganisms.

Finally, a third augmented experience is being developed. The first above (pterosaurs) is for the public. The second (microbiomes) is for a prototype. But the third one is just for the youth developing it. Science Alliance is a middle school program that allows students to gain exposure to museum artifacts and specimens, conduct investigations and study different scientific fields. Lasting three years, I am helping this year’s group of 8th graders complete their time in the program by augmenting their research project with an app that will combine their research with manipulable 3D models of their subjects.

Before leaving the class to start their research, I wanted to learn if this all seemed as exciting to them as we hoped it might be. Just because we thought it was cool was no guarantee they’d feel the seem. I asked them to be honest. I implored. What did they think of all these plans?

Dead silence.

Then, one girl spoke, with the flat tone parents fear when asking “How was your day?” and receiving a nondescript “Okay…”

She said, straight-faced, “Awesome.” Then added, “fantastic.”

Then the energy just spread around the room: Engaging. Different. Interesting. Intriguing. Insightful. Fun. Cool.

And, my favorite: Fantabulous.

I think this is going to be one fantabulous season.


About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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One Response to Augmenting the Museum: Pterosaurs, Microbiomes, and More

  1. Lou Gasco says:

    Awesome! Great launch!

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