Wildlife Adventure

Wildlife Adventure is an interactive activity that utilizes augmented reality to allow visitors to discover new information about dioramas and gain a new perspective on how human impacts affect different ecosystems.

Client: Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Team: Chen Ni, Melody Ma

We had the opportunity to create a design intervention with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Their vision is to be the world's most relevant natural history museum and "to use their collections and scientific expertise to create knowledge that inspires an understanding of natural heritage, communicate the unity and interdependence of humanity and nature, and advocate for the protection of the earth and its in habitants, while encouraging participation in the natural sciences."

Why Dioramas?

Diorama's have a rich history and tradition associated with natural history museums, however there is a feeling that they are old-fashioned in comparison to newer exhibit styles. Our team’s interest in the art of dioramas and the push by the museum to make the dioramas more relevent to museum visitors influenced our desire to address designing a solution that within the diorama hall at CMNH.

40% of families spent 2–5 minutes in the diorama hall, which contains 26 dioramas

During our observational research, we observed, in comparison to other areas in CMNH such as the dinosaur area and Discovery Basecamp, there was a low percentage of museum visitors interacting with the artifacts in the diorama hall. We also noticed a lack of communication between families observing the dioramas.

Interviews with Museum Staff and Educators

We had the opportunity to speak with museum staff who worked in the Education Department. These interviews provided us insight into some of the museum's desires and concerns, such as the importance to preserve the tradition of dioramas and the desire to incorporate the concept of Anthropocene throughout other exhibitions on display at the museum. 

We also had the opportunity to speak with an elementary school educator to gain a better understanding of the learning process and techniques that are utilized in engaging young children.

“Everyone is naturally curious.”

- Elementary School Educator

Key Insights

Based on our observational research and interviews with museum staff and educators, we discovered three major problem areas.

Low visitor engagement within the diorama hall

- Visitors felt the dioramas were static - once they saw them, they didn’t have to revisit because they never change 
- Visitors saw the dioramas as old-fashioned

Limited direct adult to child engagement

Parents and children moved at different speeds through an resulting in missed opportunities of engagement
There appeared to be a lack of deep conversation about artifacts on display
Lack of integration of human impacts

- Because the dioramas are static, it is difficult to integrate the concept of Anthropocene without changing the dioramas

How can we use technology to design a system of an engaging activities for families to experience dioramas in a new way?

Focusing on the incorporation of the following elements:

Incorporate the concept of human impacts in relation to the ecosystems presented

Increase the amount of information provided through the use of technology
Ways to promote increased time spent observing a diorama

Change the perspective that dioramas are old-fashioned

Wildlife Adventure is an interactive activity that utilizes augmented reality to allow visitors to discover new information about the dioramas and gain an new perspective on how human impacts affect the different ecosystems

Project Focus

For the time frame of this project, we focused on developing the center station interactions and the first diorama activity. We designed our activity around the Black Bear diorama and focused on invasive species as the human impact we were addressing. 

Center Station

The users first arrive at the center station. Here they are able to select the dioramas they would like to visit and receive the items they will need to complete Wildlife Adventure. They are introduced to Ranger Joe, Wildlife Adventure's mascot, and given basic instructions by a stationed museum employee. 

Augmented Reality

Once the users arrive at the first diorama, they scan their cameras at the side panel and are greeted by Ranger Joe and given instructions to use their cameras to find hidden animals in the diorama.

We choose to utilize augmented reality because it allowed us to introduce new information within the physical space of the dioramas without having to change the physical structure of the diorama environments.

The following video is a simulation of the AR experience for the user.


After the users are finished, they return to the side panel and scan their cameras to view the animals they found. They perform a timeline based activity that focuses on how invasive species are changing the diorama’s ecosystem. The users are promoted to play with the timeline and guess which animal is the invasive species.

After completeing the timeline activity, they are taken to an informational screen to learn more about invasive species and are promoted to pledge how they will help the environment.  

We decided to include a pledge system to help relate the human impacts information back to the user. It provides a cause, effect, and action sequence. For each activity, the pledges relate to the specific human impact that is introduced.

The following video is a simulation of the timeline experience with accompanying audio.

Information for Non-activity Visitors

We also took into consideration designing new information screens for the side panels we designed. These screens include additional information focusing on human impacts and additional species that reside in the diorama’s ecosystems. This would allow visitors, who did not want to participate in Wildlife Adventure, to still have access to the layers of information presented in the acitivities. 

* Statistics from CMNH Study

© 2018 Laura Rodriguez