Harnessing Motion Sensing Technologies to Engage Visitors with Digital Data

Jessica Roberts, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, Leilah Lyons, University of Illinois at Chicago; New York Hall of Science, USA, Francesco Cafaro, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, Rebecca Eydt, New York Hall of Science, USA

Published paper: Harnessing motion-sensing technologies to engage visitors with digital data

Data is an increasingly important part of how we understand the world around us, but making abstract and complex data sets accessible to museum visitors can pose a significant challenge. The CoCensus exhibit, installed at the New York Hall of Science, seeks to engage visitors in exploring mapped census data and encourage reasoning about the spatial, temporal, and quantitative properties of the data set through a customizable, interactive multiuser exhibit.

This paper discusses two major design challenges in creating this novel exhibit, which utilizes embodied interaction to let visitors use their body movements to “play” with digital representations of data in a collaborative learning space. The first challenge was providing an "entry point" to engage visitors with the abstract data set, which was accomplished by allowing visitors to select personally relevant subsets of the census data and dynamically control how those subsets were displayed. Using motion-sensing technologies to situate this control in multiple users’ bodies through movements and gestures addressed the second challenge of engaging multiple participants, who were now able to coordinate their actions to jointly explore their data. This paper will discuss design iterations of CoCensus to describe how motion-sensing technologies have been harnessed to transform the floor space of an exhibit into an interactive timeline, demonstrating that museums can play a role in helping visitors develop data-reasoning skills, playfully and collaboratively.

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