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Above a bakery in Portland, Oregon, a unique group of storytellers are quietly changing museum and exhibit experiences all over the world. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, we meet Second Story, creators of award-winning interactive projects for clients that include the Getty Museum, National Geographic, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian Institution, just to name but a few.
Founders Julie Beeler and Brad Johnson introduce us to their uniquely talented studio where their signature interactive design is conceived and produced. Second Story creates immersive adventures that educate and entertain through compelling visuals, touch and play, and inspiring participation through curiosity.
We follow the team as they reveal one of their latest triumphs, the Age of Mammals exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, designed to both please the doctorates and the first graders who participate in their finished project.
(Music playing.) Matt Arnold: So, we are in the media lab at Second Story. This is kind of an area of the company where we experiment with new technologies, and what we are looking at today is a mini golf experience. I would say we kind of volunteered to do this as part of a local mini golf tournament. There were at least dozen different mini golf holes that a lot of local companies contributed, and ours was the only fully digital one.
Thomas Wester: We used it as an R & D effort. Typically, we start up with the user experience. We say, "This is what it's going to be. Now, go and build it." In this case, it was more like we have an opportunity to really put any technology or hell, a stack of technologies in there just to see what it's like from a technical perspective. Matt: So, the first thing you do is use the Wiimote to select a course that you are interested in. Let's try the bug course. It invites you to put the fiducials down on the table, and they offer these barriers to your destination - obstacles.
This is a special one that allows you to steer the position of your swing, and then you just swing away. And we are using all the sensors inside the Wiimote to actually do the hitting of the ball. Thomas: We were interested in how people interact with a physical object like this, and what it is like, and how people understand to work with it. So, we built an application. Basically, it shows you what's going on. So, I am holding this one down, the B button, and it's giving me all the data of where the Wii thinks it's in space right now.
So, what I do is when I hit the button, I start recording it, and then I swing and let go. So, a big swing will give me a lot of force, and then I tell the program, somebody hit with force, versus like a small swing will only give me little force. This is using an Open Source library that does fluid dynamics. The reason why we are running this is just to see what the performance is like. Matt: You want to make sure that it's not just a one-person experience, that you can have a lot of kids walk up to this, and it has to be able to react to all of them. You can't have three or four of them touching it, and it's working for them, and a fifth one walks up is like "Oh..." So, we want to make sure that whatever technology that we deploy invites everyone.
There is plenty of opportunity for everybody to interact with the hardware. Underneath the table is this camera, which not only is looking at for the fiducials but can also be looking at finger touches. The raw feed is this square here, and what the computer processes is over here. What comes out is this wonderful ID on each finger point and information about what they are doing: are they moving, are they touching, are they are removing, and how many are there? You should be able to approach a table surface like this, and it should react to you right away; otherwise, we've learned Matt: from past projects that if you Thomas: They walk away.
don't get something right away, people walk away and they miss out on all this work that we put into the software. There is a lot of dynamics there. There is - I don't know - a curiosity, and then there is almost like an embarrassment, or a shame, like "Oh! Matt: "I can't. I don't know." Thomas: "I don't want to touch it." Matt: Or people are.. Thomas: "It might break." Matt: Yeah. They are very cautious around the technology, and we want to invite them to touch, and we want to make sure it does something wonderful when they do that. Then they'll do more.
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