The challenge was to build an augmented reality app that communicates the science behind the Aurora Borealis in Abisko.
Tourists visiting Abisko during the winter months state seeing the Northern Lights as their main motivation for the trip. Photographs of this nature phenomenon line the walls of the national parks' tourist station. But there is little information available on location that explains the science behind Northern Lights. The aim of this project consists of building a fun, educational and engaging Northern Lights installation available to every hotel guest.
How can augmented reality be used for educational purposes and how does this change storytelling?
Can I use this course to get rid of the stigma that «engineers can't do graphic design»?
The solution is an interactive installation that uses augmented reality to explain the solar wind to hotel guests in Abisko.
Invisible Forces is an installation that makes the earths magnetic field visible. It is installed in the lobby of a hotel with a lot of tourists who come to see the northern lights. There are two lamps, one representing the sun and the other representing our earth. Tourists can follow the life of a solar particle starting from its birth in the sun to its colourful death in the auroral circle on earth. And it also allows them to replay significant space weather events and see how they effect earth.
The solution also opens up the space to think about augmented products. For instance, the Abisko Tourist Centre could start thinking about selling the lamps to tourist. Or another way of looking at it could be that any kind of objects at home could be repurposed to act as explanatory tools.
The impact of the project is concept of how to make science cool again to a generation that checks their smartphone every 6 seconds.
Invisible Forces is an installation that allows tourists to make the invisible magnetosphere visible to their eye. The life of a solar particle can be followed from its birth in the sun to its colourful death in an aurora borealis on earth. Tragically, the attitude that science is boring is still shared by many people. There have been different approaches to make science more understandable to the general public and especially children (e.g. the COSMOS TV series relaunch in the US). Invisible Forces is another way to approach this problem. Rather than trying to push science onto people it might be wiser to have them explore it for themselves in places where they might not expect it. In a sense this concept of an installation applies specifically to the context of Abisko national park, although when seen as a framework to communicate science, then it could be applied to many different places and problems
The communication opportunity was discovered during a five day trip to Abisko in February 2014. I got to experience Abisko for the first time through the eyes of a tourist and noticed that there was a distinct lack of scientific explanation of Auroras. Either it was assumed that all tourists already know about the solar wind or that they would look it up on the Internet. I also interviewed a couple of tourists and observed them in the hotel lobby spending a lot of time using their smartphones.
The main lesson learned was to find a way where augmented reality feels true to me, in that it is used to visualise things that are actually invisible to our eyes.
Things I have learned
- Improving After Effects and Photoshop skills.
- Excursions to Autodesk Maya and its particle system.
- Shooting a video in an explanatory rather than narrative style.
- It takes a long time to narrow down a very open brief to the point where execution can start.
Things I would do differently
- Spend more time to integrate the system better into its environment.
- Work out the details of how the "call to action" works.
- Find ways to prototype aspects of the app (not done as the focus of course was more on the graphics)
|School||Umeå Institute of Design|
|Tutors||Marije de Haas, Richard Holland, Nigel Papworth|
|Year||Spring 2014 (2 weeks)|
|Skills||Graphic Design / Communication Design, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya|