A Changing Arctic

Creating relatable, immersive experiences which provoke reflection on our roles in the natural world and relationships with it

Role

Design Research
Concept Ideation
Illustration
Animation
Physical Fabrication
Physical Env. Setup
Video Editing

Context

Oct - Dec 2022

Team

Claire Chen
Shelley Tao
Taeyoung Chang

Tools

After Effects
Premiere Pro
Audition
Fresco
p5/Processing

Overview

A multi-sensory experience for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History grounded in experiential learning, participatory experiences, and spatial environments.

Breaking away from rigid narratives and outdated approaches, A Changing Arctic creates relatable, integrated experiences which illuminate our roles and relationships with the natural world.

Spatial projection, motion capture, and positional triangulation systems provide a layer of dynamic context to existing exhibit spaces. By enabling bodily interactions within large-scale environments, this facilitates collaborative, reflective activities grounded in shared alternate realities.

Objectives

Improve the visitor experience of Pittsburgh museums, which have remained relatively static for the past decade.

Today, many museums are facing the challenge of transitioning from rigid institutions to experiential and flexible spaces. This is driven by factors such as expanding collections, increased competition for visitors, and visitor expectations for greater engagement. Museums are turning to virtual reality, apps, and interactive experiences to attract visitors. We explored emerging trends in technology to create multi-sensory, immersive, and responsive exhibits.

The Client

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) is a world class cultural institution and center for scientific inquiry, but like many of its peers, is experiencing pressure to become a more relevant, active participant in the community. We took on the challenge of transitioning the museum space from a historically formulaic, rigid approach–one that has remained relatively static at CMNH for the past decade–to evolving, flexible experiential alternatives.


Outcomes

A Changing Arctic is an immersive, interactive exhibit experience comprised of four main interactions within the Wyckoff Hall: Polar World exhibit at CMNH.

Responsive spatial projection mapping creates an immersive experience that weaves stories across the exhibit into an interactive journey spanning past, present, and future. Visitor curiosity is encouraged, and they're given the flexibility to create their own narratives across content which is dispersed and integrated throughout the space, bridging the relationships between the environment, ecology, and culture. To engage visitors in participatory, reflective activities, a layer of dynamic context is added to the existing physical infrastructure, the unique properties of which are honored and enhanced in an additive, non-destructive manner.

Our project resulted in a concept video, live demos and functioning prototypes, research and design documentation, and presentation to students and faculty within CMU's department of Design, Architecture and Human-Computer Interaction.

An illustrative journey in four parts

Four non-sequential main interactions enable visitors to explore personal areas of interest at their own pace, promoting a sense of discovery, self-initated curiosity, and sense of agency through flexibility. We focused on ways to facilitate social interaction through collaborative, shared experiences, rather than manufacturing it through reward systems or other artificial mechanisms.

01

Fate of the Arctic

Step into active projection area to initiate interaction

Position tracking systems allow the activation of action platforms and reveal deeper layers of content

Enlist the help of others and collaborate to visualize the impacts of collective action

02

Arctic Waters

p5.js editor
Live demo showcase

03

Life Beneath the Ice

This interaction brings attention back down to a smaller-scale, tactile level. Making use of previously blank space surrounding the diorama platforms, digital screens couple with physical icebergs embedded with speakers. Visitors are invited to discover the diversity of Arctic wildlife, often hidden under the ice. By moving the icebergs aside to reveal what is underneath, visitors engage with the environment to hear narratives about the species that call the Arctic their home.

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Ann Li 2022