THE MAKING OF A MULTIMODAL AR EXHIBIT
We are all lucky to be alive today, witnessing the most exciting era in human space flight. Incremental improvements in space technology used to take decades but today, led by private companies such as SpaceX, amazing breakthroughs in all aspects of space technology takes place seemingly weekly. Since all of us at Yumebau inc. are "space nerds", we wanted to pay tribute to one specific peice of hardware which is the cornerstone to Elon Musk's audacious plan to make humans into a multiplanetary species - the Raptor Engine. The following post is about the process behind the design and development of the Raptor AR Exhibit, a part of a larger series of STEM themed AR exhibits to be rolled out for the Ontario Science Centre, exclusively on our YUMEGO™ app & platform.
As with with any project we take on, the whole process started with research into all aspects of the subject matter we are trying to communicate - what makes the Raptor engine so unique? Why did SpaceX choose this particular design? Using publicly available information via tweets from Elon himself, as well as the awesomely researched and presented videos from Tim Dodd - better known as the "Every Day Astronaut" (link to his youtube channel here) - we were able to get a pretty good picture as to how the engine worked in principle, but felt that we were missing some crucial insight. Luckily, one of my friends is the amazingly talented and knowledgeable Robert Baldwin who was one of the visualization experts at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). A few zoom calls with Robert gave us the crucial insights that we needed to hang our AR exhibit design around.
(Above) Crowd sourced engineering diagram on the left, with our optimized 3D model on the right. Our team in one of many "Rocket Science" sessions with Robert Baldwin, visualization artist from NASA JPL.
Since we knew that exhibits such as this would be fairly linear, we were looking for a "backbone" onto which we would string the experience. After our initial DISCOVERY PHASE we came away with what we felt to be a crucial concept - that "lighting" a rocket engine as sophisticated as the Raptor was really no different than lighting a firecracker. With our approach to interactive AR, we felt that this "lighting of the rocket" can be the heart of the ACTIVE PLAY that we are always looking for. Additionally, we knew that there were so many other aspects of the subject matter that needed to be communicated - things such as the fundamentals of rocketry, as well as showing how exactly the Raptor is at the heart of SpaceX's plan to make humans multiplanetary. Lastly, unlike a typical museum exhibit whose content tends to be "baked in" at the time of construction, our AR exhibit can be DYNAMIC, acting as a "hub" for the most up-to-date information available online about the subject matter.
This exhibit is a good showcase for how our platform can present MULTIMODAL information:
(Above) Various diagrams showing the GAMEPLAY FLOWCHART as well as some of the supplementary multimodal information.
DEVELOPMENT & DEPLOYMENT PHASE
Once the design was set, we focused on creating the 3D models, particle animations, audio and interaction design to be as high fidelity as possible. Particular care was given to the look of the "shock diamonds" in the thrust plume of the engine when ignited, as well as a multitude of details that went into the 3D exhibit. We pride ourselves on being one of the few teams who are able to incorporate and balance methodologies from almost every design discipline: exhibition, architecture, game and UX. Because we firmly believe that great design comes from trial and error, that is why we engineered our YUMEGO™ platform the way we did - to allow us to modify and push playable prototypes to all key stakeholders almost instantaneously. Furthermore, we can then look at the usage data to help guide design refinements - seeing what worked and what didn't work and incorporating user behavior and feedback into new design iterations.
On December 9th of 2020, all of us at Yumebau Inc. watched breathlessly as SpaceX once again made history, successfully launching, bellyflopping (and almost landing) their protoype Starship powered by 3 Raptor engines. The Raptor Exhibit has already been released to a select group of users, and will be more widely available shortly. Thanks again to the entire Yumebau development team as well as all of our collaborators on this project including Gary Fearnall, John Chiodo, Robert Baldwin, as well as Kevin Von Appen, Alicia Farrow, and Sabrina Greupner from the Ontario Science Centre. It is our hope that this interactive AR exhibit will inspire the next generation of space nerds - who knows, maybe one of them will end up being the first to step foot on Martian soil ;)
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