The DeepTree is a visualization of the history of all life on earth. This tree of life represents the evolutionary relationship of millions of species from the very beginning of life, 3.5 billion years ago. The DeepTree is a multi-touch interactive application, allowing people to “fly through” the vast tree of life to any species, and to learn how species are related through a set of showcase species and shared derived traits.
Interactive surfaces are increasingly common in museums and other informal learning environments where they are seen as a medium for promoting social engagement. However, despite their increasing prevalence, we know very little about factors that contribute to collaboration and learning around interactive surfaces. In this paper we present analyses of visitor engagement around several multi-touch tabletop science exhibits. Observations of 629 visitors were collected through two widely used techniques: video study and shadowing. We make four contributions: 1) we present an algorithm for identifying groups within a dynamic flow of visitors through an exhibit hall; 2) we present measures of group-level engagement along with methods for statistically analyzing these measures; 3) we assess the effect of observational techniques on visitors' engagement, demonstrating that consented video studies do not necessarily reflect visitor behavior in more naturalistic circumstances; and 4) we present an analysis showing that groups of two, groups with both children and adults, and groups that take turns spend longer at the exhibits and engage more with scientific concepts.
In this paper we present a qualitative analysis of natural history museum visitor interaction around a multi-touch tabletop exhibit called DeepTree that we designed around concepts of evolution and common descent. DeepTree combines several large scientific datasets and an innovative visualization technique to display a phylogenetic tree of life consisting of over 70,000 species. After describing our design, we present a study involving pairs of children interacting with DeepTree in two natural history museums. Our analysis focuses on two questions. First, how do dyads negotiate their moment-to-moment exploration of the exhibit? Second, how do dyads develop and negotiate their understanding of evolutionary concepts? In order to address these questions we present an analytical framework that describes dyads’ exploration along two dimensions: coordination and target of action. This framework reveals four distinct patterns of interaction, which, we argue, are relevant for similar interactive designs. We conclude with a discussion of the role of design in helping visitors make sense of interactive experiences involving the visualization of large scientific datasets.
We provide an analysis of pairs of children interacting with a multi-touch tabletop exhibit designed to help museum visitors learn about evolution and the tree of life. The exhibit’s aim is to inspire visitors with a sense of wonder at life’s diversity while providing insight into key evolutionary concepts such as common descent. We find that children negotiate their interaction with the exhibit in a variety of ways including reactive, articulated, and contemplated exploration. These strategies in turn influence the ways in which children make meaning through their experiences. We consider how specific aspects of the exhibit design shape these collaborative exploration and meaning-making activities.
In this paper, we present the DeepTree exhibit, a multi-user, multi-touch interactive visualization of the Tree of Life. We developed DeepTree to facilitate collaborative learning of evolutionary concepts. We will describe an iterative process in which a team of computer scientists, learning scientists, biologists, and museum curators worked together throughout design, development, and evaluation. We present the importance of designing the interactions and the visualization hand-in-hand in order to facilitate active learning. The outcome of this process is a fractal-based tree layout that reduces visual complexity while being able to capture all life on earth; a custom rendering and navigation engine that prioritizes visual appeal and smooth fly-through; and a multi-user interface that encourages collaborative exploration while offering guided discovery. We present an evaluation showing that the large dataset encouraged free exploration, triggers emotional responses, and facilitates visitor engagement and informal learning.
Multi-touch technology lends itself to collaborative crowd interaction (CI). However, common tap-operated widgets are impractical for CI, since they are susceptible to accidental touches and interference from other users. We present a novel multi-touch interface called FlowBlocks in which every UI action is invoked through a small sequence of user actions: dragging parametric UI-Blocks, and dropping them over operational UI-Docks. The FlowBlocks approach is advantageous for CI because it a) makes accidental touches inconsequential; and b) introduces design parameters for mutual awareness, concurrent input, and conflict management. FlowBlocks was successfully used on the floor of a busy natural history museum. We present the complete design space and describe a year-long iterative design and evaluation process which employed the Rapid Iterative Test and Evaluation (RITE) method in a museum setting.
Proposed a novel Group Identification Algorithm in a dynamic visitor flow and engagement metrics for statistical analysis in interactive informal learning environments. Demonstrated effects of two typical study methodologies.