A mixed reality educational kit that combines an augmented reality experience with physical objects. Hubble aims make abstract concepts more tangible for elementary students in the classroom.
Presented at Frog Design, Dumbo + Currently a part of the NYC Media Lab x Verizon Connected Futures III Challenge.
//COMPUTER VISION, INTERACTION DESIGN, UX DESIGN
A three week long project in collaboration with Amy Ashida, Christine Lawton and Scott Cowell. I was responsible for ideating, wireframing, rapid prototyping and user testing.
Award + Press
Amy Ashida, Christine Lawton and I recently became a part of the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program where we will be working for the next two months to refine our prototype under the category Social AR/VR. We are further refining and building our solution in collaboration with Wolfgang Gil. It was also covered by Verizon News.
Current Educational Tools Used
For centuries, we’ve taught kids about dynamic topics with static objects. These models are hard to understand, difficult to put together, and more importantly, don’t encourage play, and trap information inside the screen.
We began by looking at traditional models of teaching STEM topics. In order to provide focus, we decided to narrow our scope to learning about space.
Books, diagrams, 3d models, and more recently, YouTube videos and websites seemed to be the primary ways kids learned about space. All of these mediums provided great information, but they tended to focus on either physical interaction or providing information with little bridge between the two. While some good apps do exist, kids don’t have enough opportunities to engage outside of a screen.
Why Don't They Work?
Lessons are too structured and teachers in elementary schools usually follow a fixed approach.
These methods don’t work effectively as each student has a unique learning method and grasping capacity - while some prefer merely listening to teachers, others understand more visually.
Additionally, traditional methods only offer minimal feedback.
If a teacher just stands there talking to the class, there’s no real way to know whether students fully understand the subject until assignments are graded or test time rolls around.
Planning successful, engaging activities can also be very time consuming.
We discovered some fantastic craft projects designed for kids to help teach this material, which were fun and captivating for kids, but took a lot of planning and organizing for parents or teachers to pull off.
As a result, these activities were often limited in busy classrooms and homes.
Narrowing Down The Focus
As a group we decided to focus on education and brainstormed areas where augmented or mixed reality could be used to encourage students to pursue subjects that often fall by the wayside. We debated between math, music, and science and eventually narrowed in on space.
We narrowed down our users to teachers of kids ages 4-8. We wanted to see how can we could assist them in better engaging their students. We were particularly interested in focusing on teachers that are open to trying new technology and teaching methods.
In order to provide focus, we decided to narrow our scope to learning about space.
Defining Design Principles
Collaboration in the classroom
Combining physical and digital
Give instant feedback
Use the technology that is already available
For this project, our team had a unique opportunity to work with a new device called Lampix. This can transform any surface into a smart surface. Using computer vision, object recognition, and a projector, it allows digital interactions to take place off the screen. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, we decided to design specifically for this platform.
Although we had Lampix, we studied two other technologies: iPad and Kinect. We wanted to understand different possibilities of physical and digital elements being used together.
We went through many iterations of lessons and varying levels of fidelity. These ranged from rough outlines and video prototypes to computer vision sketches using the lampix devices. We wanted to prototype basic interactions, which meant that we had to understand exactly where on the table those interactions would take place and the functions needed to use the computer vision capabilities fo the device.
After talking to a few elementary school teachers, we locked down the curriculum and mapped out the journey.
We then made low fidelity wireframes to flesh out the flow and interactions involved in the experience.
We then started rapidly prototyping how the interaction might look. We also wanted to add another dimension to provide an experience for students and teachers that combined the layered information of a digital application with the tactile experience of using 3D models. To achieve this we added a dome to the interface.
For Day and Night, kids get to point to a location on Earth and follow it as the day progresses. This helps them understand how the Earth’s rotation causes day and night.
For Seasons, the focus changes from Earth to the Sun. On dragging the Earth around its orbit, kids learn about the relationship between earth’s position and seasons.
The third lesson is Craters. Here, kids can throw small sized objects at the moon. This simple and fun activity helps them learn about the moon’s surface and its gravitational pull.
Feedback and Iteration
We then tested our prototype with a few elementary school teachers. One of them Diana, who teaches 3rd grade in Maryland pointed out that to make children understand complex and abstract concepts, we would have to set up some context for them.
This really helped us make some changes to our prototype. We introduced a character, named Hubble the space explorer, to our experience that takes off to explore the space from the Earth in a space rocket. We realized that this would help kids understand the difference between what they see on earth versus the view from space.
Presenting at Frog Design
We designed this experience as a tool for teachers to explain complex concepts to their class. Hubble fits into existing space curriculum, helping teachers reinforce important concepts and vocabulary. We envision teachers leading their students through the experience before they adventure on their own.
For our final proof of concept we used video prototypes and shifted between lessons remotely. We presented the final proof of concept.
Connected Futures Challenge
Amy Ashida, Christine Lawton and I recently became a part of the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program where we will be working for the next two months to refine our prototype under the category Social AR/VR. We are further refining and building our solution in collaboration with Wolfgang Gil.
We are primarily focusing on the quiz part of the experience. We are also using LEAP motion and gesture tracking instead of LAMPIX. Here are a few images from our work so far.
What I learnt
- Working with a new device called Lampix
- Rules for designing for large surfaces - the UX guidelines completely change.
- Rapid Prototyping to test idea
- Environment be an active participant in your experience as well!
- 3D Modeling using Fusion 360
- Understanding how to design experience with gestures