Advanced Interactive Media/How We Did This: A Brief History for One Interactive Project

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The Advanced Interactive Media class of Spring 2008 laid out the foundations of a proposed immersive interactive project for the Elsing geological museum. This will detail that process and the reasoning for the decisions made:

- Why did we focus on the age-group that we did?

> The Elsing Museum’s primary clientele are 3rd graders (ten to twelve years old), so that naturally became this project’s primary focus. However for the website, it was decided to focus on the older age-group that would encompass the teachers and parents, since they were considered more likely to be the ones to consult that as part of their research and decision whether to include the museum as part of their children’s education.


- Colour Palette / Design layouts / Branding / Look & Feel:

> The final colour pallette was chosen due to its earth-tone like look that reflects the project’s subject, namely a geological museum. Nonetheless, that was also balanced by a desire to keep some element of saturated, advanced colours that more naturally appeal to children. In addition, while the somewhat more dull look of the pallette may not be so appealing to children of the focus age-group, we think the media interactivity offered by the Surround-Screen Video (hereafter: SSV) elements, such as the Wii-controllers, the chroma-keying and the touchscreen experience, as well as the use of high-energy, child-friendly fonts (developed in LiveType) will more than compensate.

> Similarly, there was an understood need to balance what could otherwise be opposing requirements in the look and feel to the VR environments, which would naturally be set within the context of a cave (designed in Lightwave). Normally, the interior of a VR cave might not be considered particularly appealing to children looking for an interactive experience, but the museum’s own artifacts come to the rescue in this with their amazing variety in colours and even picturesque, natural designs. Combining the two, with specimens interspersed throughout the VR cave, will more than resolve any balancing issues.

> These first two items gave rise to a natural branding of the museum, and therefore this project, by showcasing the most aesthetic of the museum’s artifacts on an interactive lazy-susan display. This would be used on the website to give interested parties a taste of what’s available without the complexities of the more extensive VR cave environment.


- Scripting and Games:

> The tone of any story to accompany the VR environments was naturally set from the beginning by the clientele, as well as any proposed length, taking into their attention spans. Initially, it was thought that competition would be a worthwhile interactive experience, with the children split into two or more groups which would then have a certain length of time to complete the challenges/games put before them. Eventually, this was relinquished in favour of merely running the games as separate entities which would nonetheless still fit into the context of the story intro presented at the beginning of the SSV experience.

> The story itself was developed along the ideas of a villain who steals and/or breaks certain artifacts leaving the children, directly as well as through their VR alter-egos to solve the clues and repair the damage, etc. It is a standard format that easily lends itself to all kinds of permutations but is also simple enough to be a format that children are familiar with.

> Both the story and the games were kept simple enough so that they would not become time consuming, but still retained the potential of fully engaging the children in the VR experience with the Wii-controllers. The story was consequently created with characters that the children could relate to, and the games broken down into two quickly-understood, self-explanatory categories:

1) The jigsaw puzzle

2) Identify the piece/item that doesn’t belong, and


Breakdown of the project:
> Phase 1:
  Colour palette, look & feel of layout, fonts, livetype templates, motion backgrounds, basic 
  navigation mind map & buttons
> Phase 2:
  Detailed navigation including all globals, plus applying branding to all screen formats
> Phase 3:
  To create at least one working prototype for every format (VR, touch screen, video 
  projection, brochure, touchscreen, etc.) and finally the client demonstration
Creation of the 3 teams:
> Design:
o Development of the Colour Palette, Design layouts, Branding and overall Look & Feel that 
  will be the confines within which the other teams will develop their products.
o Creation of PR materials such as non-standard brochures, etc. that can be disseminated to 
  schools in the effort to bring the SSV experience to those places.
> Interactive:
o Creation of the game concept, including the Wii-controller interface, and attendant story  
  script and characters.
o To create the navigational user-interface and apply it to the touchscreen and website 
  templates produced by the Design Team, primarily using Director software.
> AV:
o Naturally, the filming and recording of elements such as the real-life, curator character 
  as well the lazy-susan display.
o Creation of a mini-documentary about the museum, done in coordination with the curator. This 
  documentary would then be featured on the website and be part of the promotional material 
  for the museum and the SSV.

In keeping with the developing media world that is the focus of this class, communication was conducted primarily through Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2248278720)and a job/task list in Google docs (http://docs.google.com/#all)

As the weeks in this Spring 2008 semester began to pass by, a better understanding was gained about how far this current class could be expected to go in completing the concepts being developed. As a consequence, the last two weeks were focused on developing prototypes of all the material and concepts that will serve as the foundation for the completed project. Those prototypes were then presented to the curator and Grants coordinator who will then take those prototypes and use them in grant applications for the funds necessary to continue. Further development and the final completion will now be passed to future Ai Classes!