DinoStomp transports up to ten users at a time to the Mesozoic era, where interaction with dinosaurs is possible within a 3D landscape staged on a giant screen. It is one of several unique and immersive components of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s newly redesigned DinoLabs exhibition space.
The space was transformed through the vision of Executive Director of Concept Design and Creative Development Amy Romans, who designed a curved and organic environment for the Dinosaur Gallery to showcase the Museum’s paleontological artifacts and an array of high-tech components designed to enhance the guest experience in a visually compelling and immersive manner. The motivation behind Roman’s vision for DinoStomp was to elevate the participatory activity of guests in the gallery, through motion, movement and observation.
Ideum was of employed by the Museum for the purpose of integrating its technological expertise to the Museum’s original design and concepts. Ideum adapted the Museum’s concepts and educational content with specialized software and hardware to create an animated and interactive experience. Some of the key elements included the construction of a video wall which would conform to the curvilinear environmental design.
The resulting DinoStomp product is a wall eight-feet-high and 20-feet-wide composed of 15 LG 55” monitors, video array controllers, and three Microsoft Kinect motion recognition cameras. Dinosaurs in a 3-D scene follow and interact with users as they come within range of the sensors, roaring and leaping according to the motion that is recognized. The scene is fully animated and has AI elements making it more dynamic.
Presenting an ultra-high-resolution interactive application on a convex wall came with complex technical challenges. By using specialized mounts and ultra-thin bezel displays, the technicians were able to mount the video wall with minimal breaks between displays.
Inside Ideum’s Usability and Prototyping Studio, the team built a curved wall to perform a full test of the video wall system and constructed a powerful computer to handle the 10,000-pixel-wide resolution of the video wall and 3-D graphics for the application.
In conjunction with the Museum’s Designer and Educators, Ideum developed the dinosaur characters behaviors and the prehistoric scenes. These took several months to design and develop in Unity3D. This work included 3-D modeling, rigging and animation, textures, software development, game AI programming and lighting.
The primary interaction in the exhibit, however, is accomplished by the tracking of people walking in front of the wall with Kinect motion sensors. Accurate body tracking was complicated, given the gallery lighting conditions, varying distances between people and the wall, and the curve of the wall. Ultimately, to solve this unique problem, the Ideum team used multiple Kinect devices and tracking computers to create the final experience.
The application plays stage director to actors (the dinosaurs) who each have their own personality when reacting and playing with the audience. “Epic” events occur when certain characters in the application appear at different times according to the number of participants, such as the Tyrannosaurus and the Brachiosaurus.
The smaller dinosaurs, such as Velociraptors and Ankylosaurs, are programmed to appear when a body in motion is detected by one of the Kinect devices. This interaction allows participants to have their motions mimicked by 3D raptors and makes the scene more participatory and fun. The mimicking raptors also diminish the “fear factor” for younger guests since they are able to control the dinosaurs in the scene with their motion.
The final installation is both a technical marvel, but also a playful and engaging vehicle for drawing visitors of all ages into this prehistoric world. The collaboration involved in creating this exhibit required a symbiosis between the Ideum team and the Museum’s Design team on site, working within the larger vision for the exhibition and collaborating with the museum’s designer, educators and creative department to match the aesthetic and messaging with all of the other pieces in the space.
"Everyone has experienced one dinosaur exhibit or another, but this is a fresh take on an old–very old!–subject. The animals look and behave quite realistically, but in a smart move, the bright color palette signals a fun (rather than scary) experience. Most importantly, the interactivity feels fresh and is empowering to kids."
"A delightful and engaging interactive—integrated beautifully into the space. The incorporation of audio throughout the space as well as choreographed projections both enhances the experience and makes connections to the displayed artifacts."
Ideum Technology Design Team: Darold Ross (senior designer), James Romero (3D artist), Jim Spadaccini (creative director), Cheyenne Bsaies (project coordinator), Curtis Bennett (technical director), John Mark Collins (producer), Ryan Leonski (lead developer), Cairn Overturf (Kinect developer)
Museum Design / Conceptual Development Team: Amy Romans (executive director of concept design and creative development)
Ideum (video wall development)
Chris Steinmetz (senior exhibit technician), Robert Dempsey (exhibit technician)