Finalist 2022

Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs (Act 3)

Sandpit / Klang / Chris Edser

Sandpit created the immersive and interactive third act of Horridus: Fate of the Dinosaurs, focused on dinosaurs’ living descendants: birds.

In partnership with Melbourne Museum, Sandpit created the third act of Horridus: Fate of the Dinosaurs, focusing on the dinosaurs’ only living descendants: birds. Sandpit developed an immersive projection-mapped experience that covers the walls and ceiling of the third and final stage of the Horridus exhibition. The immersive experience focuses on native Victorian birds and includes three nooks visitors can enter to have a one on one encounter with animations of birds in the wild. Each nook is themed around a habitat: City, Water and Bush.

Design Brief:

The objective of this exhibition is to share the unlikely fate of the dinosaurs, their evolution into birds and reintroduce these living relics of the past to the world in a unique and fun way. The accurate depiction of the birds behaviour was very important to the Sandpit team, and worked closely with ornithologist Karen Rowe throughout concept generation.This was due to Sandpits desire to maintain Melbourne Museum reputation as a vessel for legitimacy of the heritage of humanity and its environment. With this objective in mind, this exhibition has provided public access to dinosaur-bird-human interaction, a unique experience provided only by the Melbourne Museum. It was developed as an addition to the permanent collection of the Melbourne Museum and its duration is estimated to be a minimum of 15 years.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Horridus: Act 3 was developed through iterative design processes in both digital and physical design aspects of its creation. Its design development involved: workshop sessions with clients to define the project's goals, user research, concept ideation, prototyping, user testing in order to fulfil UX considerations (customer journey maps, target audience and personas accessibility considerations analysis).

Based on user testing results, the project was further refined and implemented for real world testing and interaction. Given the project's ambitious nature, the journey to completion has brought on its fair amount of challenges. Due to the intended duration of this experience, which is a minimum of 15 years, the exhibition had to be constructed with robust structures, hardware and software in mind.

Hundreds of people interact with this exhibition everyday, therefore days of testing on all fronts were involved in the experience's development. Iterative testing involving camera depth sensors, as well as voice recognition testing within a space immersed in bird calls and crowds at all hours of the day was imperative to the quality of the user experience of the exhibition. In addition to the challenge that is the robustness of the experience, the development of this exhibition asked us to adapt to the new normal that is living with COVID 19.

The team devoted time and work to making sure this exhibition would be COVID safe, specifically around the voice recognition section of this experience. To adapt to this challenge, a directional microphone was hidden within the walls. Rigorous testing regarding position, volume and distance was performed in order for the visitors to remain a safe distance away from surfaces.

Design Excellence

By following the previously stated design process from conception to implementation, the development of this exhibition experience has been held to the standards of good design. Rigorous testing has assured seamless interaction between the user and the system, confirming its study functionality. Through the development of all our exhibition design projects Sandpit adheres to the Smithsonian Accessibility guidelines.

By following these, we strive to cater for the wide diversity of museum goers. Height considerations for children, design for and access for wheelchair users as well as accessible language for audiences were constant considerations for the design and implementation of this experience. Assuring as many audiences as possible are able to access this unique experience.

User experience for this exhibition was refined through rounds of testing involving scenario building and the development of personas throughout the concept and development stage. The sensing sections of the experience were refined through the consideration of intuitiveness and fluidity of interaction by defining parameters of activation in consideration of target audiences as well as the space this exhibition resides in. The resulting product of Sandpits work has provided Melbourne with a 15 year long groundbreaking interactive auditory and visual experience that works as the cherry on top for the Horridus experience.

Design Innovation

Horridus: Act 3, is divided into three experiences: Walls, Party in The Sky, and Nooks Both Walls and Party in The Sky are part of a projection mapped animation displaying birds from all over the world, adapting themselves to the interior architecture of the space, portraying the living environment of these post-dinosaur creatures, allowing for a seamless natural experience.

Party in the Sky, has a hidden secret behind it, no sequence of birds displayed is ever the same. This is an active application created within developing software Unreal Engine, birds interacting with each other in the sky are randomly generated every time, allowing the user to have a new experience every time they visit the exhibition. These birds exist within three different levels in the space, one closer to the ground, one in the middle and one closest to the ceiling. This is true for the visual aspect of Party in the Sky but also its audio component. Each bird call is programmed to match its exact height in the animation, providing a truly immersive experience.

The third section of this installation are the City, Water and Bush Nooks. Through the use of camera depth sensors, we can identify the user entering the nook, beginning the interaction. Following this, the animation playing out on the screen presents a type of bird. This bird will make its call and then encourage the user to replicate it, beginning a conversation with the bird using a hidden microphone. When the user replicates the birdsong, the system analyses it to see if it matches the pitch, tone and length of the original bird call, through custom “voice” recognition software. If the user's attempt is not similar to the original call, the bird on the screen prompts the user to try again until they succeed.

Design Impact

This experience was designed in order to work as a stand out aggregate of the Melbourne Museum collection. As such, through our adherence to accurate representation of the main subjects of this experience (the birds), unique visual and auditory qualities of our immersive environment, as well as our groundbreaking interaction system we believe we are able to perpetuate and maintain Melbourne Museums excellent reputation as a knowledge beacon.

Sandpit worked closely with Kulin Nations elders to include an accurate depiction of Bunjil in the exhibition in order to acknowledge and honour the heritage of the Kulin Nations. Bunjil is the creator spirit of the Kulin Nations and takes the form of a wedge-tailed eagle. He has his own tree incorporated into the exhibition design and flies around the room with the other birds, keeping watch over all. Sandpit also worked closely with Museums Victorias palaeontologists and ornithologists to maintain scientific accuracy in the way each of the birds in the exhibition was illustrated, sounded and animated.

The exhibitions reach has brought interactional and local attention, such as articles for CNN, ABC, 7NEWS, Time Out, The Guardian, to name a few. Through the development and delivery of this experience we hoped to educate and inspire tourists and locals to visit Melbourne Museum, while contributing something fresh and innovative the states notable creative and cultural repertoire.

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