Prototyping Interactive Data Viz: 4. AR CONSTELLATIONS

The following is a deeper dive into one of the projects developed at the American Museum of Natural History in FY17 to help us better understand how to bring the digital work of Museum scientists to visitors through emerging media. Read the top-level findings from the year or carry on below. 


Assets: Digital Universe dataset

Technology: Tango tablet & Hololens headset

What we did: We developed mobile and wearable interactive experiences using Digital Universe data. The experiences allowed the user to discover that stars within constellations are not coplanar, as they appear from Earth. As users walk toward (and into) a constellation, it becomes apparent that some stars are much closer than others. One prototype was on a Tango tablet, which allowed multiple users to view together. The other was more immersive, in a Hololens, which allowed only one user at a time.

We tested the prototypes in the Hall of the Universe (5 hours of public evaluation over three sessions; 51 people observed; 51 people interviewed).

Key finding: There’s a clear demand for new media content in the Hall of the Universe. Visitors are eager to experience space, which is more abstract and further “beyond reach” than other Museum exhibits. Space data is a particularly good fit with wearable devices, making optimal use of the 3D canvas.

Other findings:

  • Visitors want activities. Visitors jumped at the chance to try something interactive and new. “Would you like to try–” is often as far we got before visitors said “Yes!”
  • Astronomical data is exciting. Visitors were thrilled to interact with astronomical data, sharing their experience with their social group and coaching their friends through their own experiences.
  • The medium matters. Tango’s 2D screen was not ideal for helping visitors discover that constellations sit in 3D space. Switching to the 3D environment of the Hololens – in which visitors experience a stereoscopic view – provided a better fit for the data and helped users understand the “lesson.” In general, Digital Universe content seems ideally suited to immersive environments.

Read more about this series of prototypes here or learn more about the other prototypes below:

  1. AR SHARK (learn more)
  2. CT SCANS WITH HOLOCUBE (learn more)
  3. VR WEEVIL (learn more)
  4. AR CONSTELLATIONS (learn more)
  5. ESCAPE THE PLANET (learn more)
  6. AR SCALES OF THE UNIVERSE (learn more)
  7. MEAD FESTIVAL 360 VIDEOS (learn more)
  8. PALEONTOLOGY 360 VIDEO (learn more)
  9. CT MUMMIES (learn more)
  10. TREE OF LIFE (learn more)

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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