On Beyond Maps: Video as Museum Wayfinding Tool

There are many challenges before us in the development of our upcoming mobile, site-specific game MicroRangers, not the least being the “game board” covers four different halls. If we need visitors to easily navigate amongst them, to places they might not even know exist, can we do better than maps?

Matt Tarr, who is the Museum’s Digital Architect (great title, right?), recently suggested to be that we consider video, specifically Instagram’s new Hyperlapse. From Wikipedia:

Hyperlapse is a mobile app created by Instagram that enables users to produce hyperlapse and time-lapse videos.[1] It was released on August 26, 2014. The app enables videos to users to record up to 45 minutes of footage in a single take, which can be subsequently accelerated to create a hyperlapse cinematographic effect.[3] Whereas time-lapses are normally produced by stitching together stills from traditional cameras, the app uses an image stabilization algorithm that steadies the appearance of video by eliminating jitter.

I downloaded it to my iPhone and was stunned by the smoothness of the finished video. Once you make your film you can then choose the speed of the playback, which is a lovely feature, but then must lock it in when outputting it to master video (which is not).

At first I made many newbie mistakes:

  • I might pan right or left while walking, to show my surroundings. On playback, it looks like the camera is flying left and right in a spastic motion. After that, I kept the camera looking as straight as I could to either my destination or my next turn.
  • Don’t turn when the image is up-close. I imagine this something Imax videographers must learn. In other words, I can’t zoom in on an object and then turn to walk away. Instead, I learned to frame something in close up and then slowly back away to show the full context, moving from a close-up to a medium shot, and only then turning.
  • I learned to find at least one major visual anchor at every moment then maintain it in view as long as possible. For example, when walking from the protist to the beaver, I choose to walk straight to and then turn at the Teddy Roosevelt statue – that would be immediately identifiable to the visitor. But rather than just make a quick turn I try to get him into frame as soon as possible and not let him leave until I have to; my presumption is this will help orient and anchor wayfinders to the required turns.
  • Don’t start or stop too fast. Since everything is being sped up, I realized my initial and final establishing shots needed to be uncomfortably long to film to feel natural when sped up. Otherwise I risk running away from the starting point before the wayfinder has a chance to figure out where we began (or concluded).
  • Light changes can be an issue. You CAN touch the screen to re-calibrate the lighting but I had to learn to predict when it would be required, but after only a few fails. Otherwise the switch to black or dark might create a lack of continuity.
  • I found sometimes 4X worked best while other times 6X.
  • I have no idea if ANY of this works – next step is testing these out with videos to see if this can guide them from point A to point Z.

Below are a few examples:

This MicroRangers Hyperlapse Wayfinding Test demonstrates moving from the bleached coral in the Hall of Ocean Life to the crystal protist in the Hall of Biodiversity:

This MicroRangers Hyperlapse Wayfinding Test demonstrates moving from the crystal protist in the Hall of Biodiversity to the Forest Floor exhibit in the Hall of Northeast Forest:

This MicroRangers Hyperlapse Wayfinding Test demonstrates moving from the Forest Floor exhibit in the Hall of Northeast Forest to an exhibit within the same Hall that most don’t know exists:

This MicroRangers Hyperlapse Wayfinding Test demonstrates a long move – from the crystal protist in the Hall of Biodiversity to the Beaver in the Hall of North American Mammals:

This MicroRangers Hyperlapse Wayfinding Test demonstrates a long move – from the crystal protist in the Hall of Biodiversity to the Beaver in the Hall of North American Mammals.

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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5 Responses to On Beyond Maps: Video as Museum Wayfinding Tool

  1. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for sharing this! We’ve thought about this for our Mobile Guides, but couldn’t find a convenient app to capture and speed up video. Keep us appraised of its usability by your visitors!

  2. Whitechalk says:

    You are right about light, videos are way too dark to be really useful navigation tools. I also think you can speed these up even more for visitors who are familiar with the museum, maybe make replay speed variable or subject to choice. Hyperlapse seems like a great tool for something!

  3. rik says:

    Super cool. Here’s my first attempt at walking around our main floor of our museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FhnAIPR3mA

  4. Barry says:

    Rik, That looks great! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Katie says:

    This is such a cool idea! It’s like the inside of my head when I give directions!

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