If you visited our office in July, you would have seen a lot of people flailing their limbs about wildly. No, we weren’t putting the finishing touches on some sweet new dance choreography. We were actually testing a new project for the Food Network – a gesture activation game that puts visitors’ cooking skills to the test as they help celebrity chef Lynn Crawford prepare one of her signature salads. Featured as part of the Shaw tent at the RBC Canadian Open and Shaw Charity Classic this summer, the gesture activation game prompts visitors to perform full-body gestures that mimic whisking, chopping, pouring, tossing and crumbling, which are then read by the Kinect system and translated on-screen by the NGX software. As the visitors progress through the steps, Lynn provides customized feedback based on their gesture-cooking abilities – everything from praise (“That is a beautiful tossed salad!”) to tough love (“You call yourself a whisker?!”). The system scores visitors based on accuracy, speed, and technique – and visitors can claim bragging rights with their high scores. In fact, things got quite heated during our software testing process as our Creative Director defended his high score with his precision gesture chopping ability. I didn’t stand a chance with my sub-par whisking.
Gesture-based interactives are becoming more and more popular, and not just as promotional experiences at events like those described above. Museums and interpretive centres are also finding value in encouraging visitors to interact on a larger and more immersive scale. A relatively new technology (Microsoft’s Kinect hit the mainstream market only 4 years ago), gesture-based systems can now be found everywhere from the Louvre to the American Museum of Natural History.
In 2013, the Cleveland Museum of Art unveiled Gallery One, an interactive interpretive space from the creative folks at Local Projects. Featured as part of this hands-on gallery is an exhibit called “Strike a Pose”, a Kinect-based gesture experience that challenges visitors to imitate the pose of sculptures found in the museum. The program then gives visitors feedback on the accuracy of their pose and allows them to share their pose with others. Gesture experiences don’t have to be all about gameplay either: the Louvre recently used a Kinect system in an exhibit titled “Spotlight on the Antinoe Veil” that allows museum-goers to interact with an ancient and delicate Greek fabric without physically touching it.
Science centres and natural history museums have also embraced gesture-based exhibits as a way to completely immerse visitors. NGX teamed up with AldrichPears and the Telus World of Science Edmonton to create a full-body gesture experience for their Environment Gallery that allows visitors to walk across an interactive floor projection of polar ice caps. Embodying a polar bear, the visitor hops from ice cap to ice cap, leaving paw prints as they struggle to stay afloat as the ice caps melt. Using full-body play from a unique perspective, this exhibit sends a powerful experiential message about climate change and its impact on wildlife.
Want to know what it’s like to fly like a Pterosaur? Of course you do! The American Museum of Natural History in NYC recently unveiled a gesture-based exhibit for their 2014 Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition that allows visitors to take the wings of a Pterosaur for a spin. What better way to learn about Pterosaur flight than by BEING A PTEROSAUR. Where do I sign up?
Gesture-based exhibits give visitors the opportunity to play make-believe for a few minutes and interpret topics from a completely new (and fun) perspective, so it makes sense that museums and interpretive centres are big fans. Whether you’re embodying a figurative sculpture, a leaping polar bear, a flying pterosaur, or a sous chef who’s not so hot at whisking, there really is something for everyone.
– Jason Clarke, Content Strategist