Prototyping Interactive Data Viz: 9. CT MUMMIES

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: CT scans of mummies from the Field Museum, presented via touch tables at the Mummies exhibition

Technology: Touch-screen table

What we did: To see how cultural content could be enhanced with AR, we focused on an interactive table produced by the Field Museum. We observed and interviewed visitors at the Mummies temporary exhibition to understand how they engaged with the interactive touch tables that featured CT scans of mummies.

We conducted 2 hours of public evaluation over two sessions (33 people observed. 19 people interviewed). Findings:

Key finding: Mummies are a natural fit to the medium (users can “unwrap” the specimen without causing damage). Visitors enjoy manipulating CT scans on a touch table, but without time limits and crowd management, the table may become dominated by very few users.

Other findings:

  • Interactive scans can be “stickier” than their related objects… On average, visitors spent twice as long interacting with a CT scan of an object than looking at the same object in a display case. This comported with our earlier observation that people will spend more time interacting with a virtual shark or weevil scan than looking at the shark model or an actual weevil.
  • … but also encourage visitors to observe the real thing. Still, scans can draw people’s attention to objects they may have otherwise missed altogether. As with the mako shark in the Hall of Biodiversity or the Orion constellation in the Hall of the Universe, many people started with a scan and then went back to look at the real object. And with the behind-the-scenes 360 video, viewers took notice of the Big Bone Room exhibit after experiencing the video.
  • Visitors understood the CT scans were specimens from science research. The majority of visitors understood that the CT scans were created for scientific or academic purposes, rather than primarily for display in the exhibit. We should continue to explore ways of bringing the “process of science” into virtual experiences.

Learn more about the other prototypes:

  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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