ETC requires each project team to create a series of branding material. The posters, concept art, accent color, and even the logo and type of font we choose, not only introduce the project to the guests, but also act as some kind of gravity in the team. You will be surprised by how much information they communicate soundlessly. They are going to help both designers and engineers make important choices throughout the semester.
It is about time to start digging into some relevant projects, background of CMoA, as well as technical approaches. Digital experience has been part of the visit in the museums all around the world. Most of them are downloadable mobile apps and fixed touch screens. For example, CMoA has its own Gallery Guide App. We are looking for creative ways to leverage AR and integrate information on text, images, videos, and 3D models. There are a few existing interesting AR experience, such as the Frozen Planet of BBC.
We also find that the elements of Escape Room is quite relevant to our ideal experience if we are to create a kind of treasure hunt game. Further on-site research will be done later.
The problem of Tango performance
One big technical limitation we are facing is Tango’s battery life. With AR function full on, the device can only last 20-30 minutes before it has to be plugged in for hours of charging. As a result, we will have to have guests spend no more than 5 minutes in average on each cast. The hardware is still a developer kit for now. We hope as they release the next generation of product, the battery life would no longer be a problem.
Tango is pretty good at indoor area learning, motion tracking, and depth perception. To show content on a preset spot, Tango needs to perform “localization”, which means learning the visual features of the entire space and save it as Area Description File (ADF). Creating an ADF that is accurate enough would be a huge amount of work for a big space like the hall.
Another way to trigger the content is to apply pattern recognition algorithm when guests point the Tango camera to an object. The fallback is the accuracy. There are casts of similar shapes, and some are blocked by others in guests’ view because of the clutter space.
The team has been exploring other means of position tracking along the way. One possible alternative is to use AR markers. It is a black-white square graph very much like QR code. It can be easily picked up by the camera, tell the exact position of the device, and show the relevant content. We still need museum’s opinion on the solution, since putting physical markers on the plates or the wall would change the current appearance. We definitely don’t want to break the immersion, since our project is part of the whole experience.
At the end of the week, we again visited the Hall of Architecture. Although we don’t have the permission just yet to hand out questionnaires or talk to any of the guests, we spent quite a time to observe the space, guests, and the exhibitions. Here are a few things we learned:
Demographic: There are young student groups, families, and lone visitors. Since we are required to target all the visitors, it is going to be a challenge to design an info structure that satisfies different interests. We also noticed that most visitors were holding smartphones and taking pictures. It is very likely that the Tango will be very intuitive for them, and that picture taking & sharing could be a fun feature.
Space: The hall has a nice big open area in the middle, at which the kids have sketching class, charities hold donation party, and in last fall, Ai Weiwei held his iconic Zodiac Heads exhibition. Around it, is a hall way which is narrow and bring the visitors closer to the casts on the wall. There are benches in the hall way, and visitors can take time and appreciate the art. It brings the problem that sometimes the space could be crowded. We need to be careful if we are asking guests to hold the Tango and stand in front of the casts, but awkwardly in others’ way.
Last but not least, we took our team photo! It will be displayed on ETC’s wall, together with other teams.