NY Hall of Science: Evolution in 3 minutes

UX DESIGN

Backstory

The NY Hall of Science wanted a kiosk activity for its exhibit on evolution. 

What I did

I designed a touch-screen activity that recreates Peter and Rosemary Grants’ Galapagos finch study. The study proved that evolution was not theoretical; it could be observed.

darwin

DISCOVERY

I worked within pre-defined constraints:

  • make a bilingual kiosk activity with a looped ‘attractor’ screen
  • make it 3 minutes long
  • make an authentic simulation of the Grant study

I researched the study to understand how to break it down into a mini-simulation. I defined the visitor takeaway and art style (photo-realistic) to be approved by the museum.

“Visitors will learn that a major factor influencing the survival of the medium ground finch is the weather, and thus the availability of food. During a drought, finches with larger beaks could take advantage of alternate food sources because they could crack open larger seeds. The smaller-beaked birds couldn’t do this, so they died of starvation. Most babies born post-drought had large beaks, the predominant trait of surviving finches.”

Once approved, I defined the simulated experience.

DESIGN

I broke down the multiyear study into three virtual Galapagos visits:

  1. Wet season: Everyone is eating. All is well.
  2. Drought: Birds are dying.
  3. Deluge: Hey! The baby birds look just like the drought survivors.

I wrote the voiceover script and created wireframes for key screens including the ‘attract’ screen (to draw visitors in).

darwin1_color

(Voiceover) You see a number of medium ground finches eating small, soft seeds. They ignore the larger tough seeds. You hang a mist net to take a closer look.

(Action) Tap mist net to open it (to capture birds).

darwin2_color

(Voiceover) You gently remove each bird from the net. You band its leg so you can recognize it later. Then you use a caliper to measure the size of its beak.

(Action) Tap each bird to remove it from the net. Then tap the caliper to adjust it, measuring the bird’s beak size. In the next scene, visitors detect that birds with small beaks (banded 2 and 3 above) died in the drought.

Result

The photo-realistic style worked nicely to convey place and season.

UNNATURAL SELECTION
What to change? The voiceover has good emphasis (perhaps necessary in a crowded museum context). But the pacing is overly formal; it distracts from the activity.

EVOLUTION IN 3, 2, 1…