Farther:

AR Tour for the Museum of Flight

Enjoying the Hololens AR tour

Project Overview

Using Augmented Reality to enhance the museum experience

Farther is an AR tour for the Museum of Flight designed for the HoloLens. It provides a variety of guided tours, additional video, audio and interactive content, and improved accessibility for non-English speakers.

Collaborators
Roles

Wayfinding, Visual Design, UX

Timeframe

4 weeks

The Challenge

Use Wearable AR technology to create an educational experience

The Museum of Flight in Tukwila, WA is the world’s largest independent non-profit air and space museum.

Founded originally to preserve the aerospace technological heritage of the Pacific Northwest, the museum’s collection has grown to over 15,000 artifacts.

The Museum’s mission is to acquire, preserve and exhibit historically significant air and space artifacts and to provide a foundation for research and lifelong learning programs that inspire an interest in and understanding of science, technology, and the humanities.

The Solution

An Augmented Reality Tour customizing content to a variety of visitors.

Farther, a HoloLens AR tour, enhances exhibits by adding additional content and offering customized guides throughout the museum.

Process

Research

We began by researching the capabilities of the HoloLens headset and brainstorming a list of potential features that could be added to the museum experience. In considering what features to include we were guided by five main considerations:

  • OTHER VISITORS: Museum attendance exceeded 600,000 yearly visitors in 2016; our product will need to function in crowded spaces without being disruptive to other visitors.
  • ENVIRONMENT LIGHTING: The HoloLens headset display renders objects via an additive light display; our content offerings will need to be tailored to the lighting environment of each unique exhibit space.
  • VISUAL DENSITY: The museum space has already been designed for visual interest; content must be easily discoverable overlaying the existing environment without obscuring the environment or overwhelming the user.
  • SPLIT CAMPUS: The Museum of Flight spans two sides of a busy roadway; our solution should assist the user in navigating a large and complex campus in order to gain the full experience.
  • And most importantly, USER LEARNING: Users of our product will have limited if any prior experiences of AR headsets or systems; our product must be simple and intuitive to learn and use.
Whiteboarding the AR interface

Voice Interface

Because the museum is a crowded space, voice commands take a secondary role so as not to disturb other guests.

When it is used, the activation phrase “Flight Deck” is required to avoid accidental activation.

We also incorporated Quick commands, basic functions that will have immediate visual feedback when activated and no confirmation, such as “Flight Deck, take a picture.”

Expected questions are mainly related to wayfinding or navigating to the help menu.

Though the interface uses light aviation terminology for a playful sense of the user as the “pilot,” it accepts more standard (“yes”/”no” ) inputs as well as aviation terminology (“affirmative”/”negative”).

Onboarding

Based on our research and out of consideration for other museum visitors, we decided to prioritize the graphical/gestural interface over voice interface. Since our users need to learn the system quickly, we designed a brief onboarding tutorial to introduce the basics of the gestural interface to the user. Although its fairly intuitive, we began by introducing the concept of “gaze”.

In order aid speedy onboarding, we kept our gesture library restricted to 3 primary gestures.

  • BLOOM: This gesture is typically used to open the main HoloLens menu. For the purposes of our experience, users will not have access to this root menu so this gesture has been re-purposed for the user to access the general settings menu.
  • AIR TAP: TheHholoLens analogy for “click” this gesture is used to open or activate content.
  • TAP & HOLD:, Functions similar to a click and drag; this gesture can be used to grab handles in order to move, scroll, rotate or otherwise manipulate content.

Content

Currently the museum’s content is unevenly distributed across exhibits. Some instillation have very little written content while other areas have an overwhelming amount of information.

There are also wide range of lighting conditions and a mix of actual planes, smaller artifacts, images, and written content throughout the museum.

Considering these factors, we decided to primarily focus our AR features on the hangers of aircraft since there is less written content in those areas and they could be improved by additional information. These areas are as follows:

  • Videos of the aircraft in action/ historic events that happened in that particular craft
  • Audio content
  • 3-D footage of cockpits of the craft guests are not able to go inside of
  • Enhanced audio – existing audio with additional visual mapping pointing out different elements of the craft
  • Mini games such as ID a craft by its engine sound
  • Timeline to put the craft in historical context and point out what came before and how the engineering improved over time
  • Favorite a craft – this both provides analytics to the museum but also allows for very specific follow-up for when that craft will be flown for example.
  • Wayfinding/tours
  • Closed captioning
  • An overlay on written content to translate into other languages
  • Small illustrations to draw your eye to easily missed items
  • Camera feature
  • A flight deck – ability to ask questions to the HoloLens.

Branding/Style

Using the museum’s brand palette, we created a color-coded system for visual content within the museum.

  • By default, content appears in blue, so as to be observable but not overwhelming.
  • Selected or activated content appears in white for maximum visibility.
  • Yellow is used to highlight information when a tour is active.
  • Red is used for errors: the user has moved outside of the view-able area while dragging or chose the wrong answer during a mini game.
  • Green is used to show a correct or acceptable action

Our visual library, specifically branded for the museum of flight, corporates aviation eyewear for the different tour icons, and uses small elements of delight to quietly direct the user’s attention to easy to miss or particularly exciting items (i.e. the astronaut floats up to point out the satellite that is easy to miss).

We purposefully made our visual elements simple so as not to be distracting but also easy to read and learn quickly.

Error Handling

We considered several ways that a new user may have trouble with the HoloLens and created several ways the program can help resolve these issues.

  • The system can issue warnings when a gesture is out of frame or undecipherable
  • If the system is detecting problems with input, it will offer a little animation prompt to remind users how to do gestures
  • The Help menu includes options for Voice and Gesture guidance, Call Attendant, or Repeat Tutorial

Visuals in 3D space

We also put a lot of thought into how visual elements would move and at what distance they would appear so to ensure ease of use without distracting from the content of the exhibit. We do not want the user to feel the need to remove the glasses due to being visually overwhelmed.

  • We chose to have a small dot appear over an item with more content
  • When you get closer the name of the aircraft will appear
  • If you continue to gaze at the dot it will grow and show what content is available and will then float to the top of the field of vision.
  • With a tap the content can be selected and will begin.