Nature All Around Us: Immersive and Interactive Media

Introduction

Nature All Around Us is a 7200 sq ft exhibition internally developed, designed, and built by the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) staff.  Outside consultants with expertise in interactive media were invited to join the team. Filled with immersive environments, hands-on interactives, and live animals, Nature All Around Us engages all your senses in discovering the hidden worlds in familiar places from your backyard to Main Street. Regardless of one’s age, interest, or background there is something in Nature All Around Us that will inspire and transform the way you look at your environment.

We created multiple media experiences for Nature All Around Us: each needed its own technical approach and posed its own set of challenges.  At every step, we emphasized prototyping and tweaking, never being rigid about a technology if it proved to be unwieldy. Throughout our design process, we kept these words in mind:  wonder, surprise, delight, fun, engagement.

For our submission to GLAMi, we focus on three major achievements:  Magic House, WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) Diorama 2.0, and Main Street Touchwall.

 

Magic House

The Magic House is the first thing visitors see when they enter the exhibit space. Different surfaces are used for projection mapping.

A CNC-cutout tree trunk is where squirrels race.  The left window features a house cat inside a kitchen, pacing stealthily. The right window has the projection of birds at multiple feeders.  Between the bushes in front, foxes, raccoons, and skunks slink by. A stump becomes a landing pad for vultures and hawks, while behind the fence, we cycle through imagery of different Utah neighborhoods.

The visuals are accompanied by a multi-track soundscape that completes the immersion.

We used Max 8, a creative coding software, to take each video element and project it onto the house surfaces.  We programmed the movements of each video clip to be random. That way the house would never look the same throughout the course of a day.

WUI Diorama 2.0

We designed and fabricated a diorama with taxidermy animals and replicated rocks and plants found in Utah’s Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and then projected video of rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, tarantulas, and more onto the scenic elements.

We wanted to bring traditional museum dioramas featuring taxidermy animals into the 21st century by using interactive projection mapping.  We call it “Diorama 2.0” and we believe that this combination of video action and taxidermy realism sets a new standard for dioramas.

Main Street Touchwall

 

To engage visitors with ‘synanthropes’ – wild animals adapted to living in human environments – we created an interactive touch wall.  The visitor touches a static black-and-white illustration and is rewarded by a full-color animation of that species that moves across a two-story building facade.

For example, if visitors touch the pigeon illustration, a massive flock of pigeons whirls just above their heads, flapping and cooing.  Touch a rat and it scurries up the brick wall. Touch a raccoon and it leaps into the garbage can and tosses out trash, including a used pizza box.

We kept our own humor intact while we faced inevitable technical challenges in getting the pigeons to flock and the snakes to slither.