Prototyping Interactive Data Viz: 5. ESCAPE THE PLANET

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: Hololens headset

What we did: Our next prototype gamified AR Constellations, as well as another dataset from Digital Universe. We developed a collaborative gaming experience inspired by “escape rooms,” where players work against the clock to discover clues and solve a mystery within the confines of a thematically staged room. Our setting was the Big Bang Theater, staged to be the cockpit of spaceship that had crashed on Mars. Teams were given 20-30 minutes to solve two puzzles in order to survive and be rescued.

Both puzzles had augmented reality components: one used AR Constellations, and the other a simulation of the Solar System. Each required collaboration between the player in the Hololens headset and teammates working with physical materials. We tested “Escape the Planet” on a group of students and staff from a local school, and we tested portions of the experience on Museum visitors.

We conducted 2 hours of public evaluation over two sessions (38 people observed; 28 people interviewed).

Key finding: Gamified AR content provides a great opportunity for spurring social interaction—in particular, discussions between users that result in learning. This content can be embedded into a larger experience that also includes low-tech and no-tech elements.                           

Other findings:

  • Games motivate learning. Users were eager to make sense of the AR visualizations because they wanted to “win” the game. Half of those surveyed reported that Escape the Planet increased their interest in the science content.
  • Games increase social interaction. Hololens users playing Escape the Planet communicated more with the rest of their group than Hololens users who experienced AR Constellations outside the context of the game.
  • Involving teens in the development process is challenging. Teens provided invaluable feedback as we tested this experience. But we found that getting youth truly involved in its development—choosing datasets, interpreting data, programming and building prototypes—was not feasible in a short timeframe.

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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