Collaborative Research: Re-Living Paleontology: Studying How Augmented Reality Immersion and Interaction Impact Engagement and Communicating Science to the Public

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 to Saturday, July 31, 2021
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Project Descriptions
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Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists | Evaluators
Geoscience and geography | History/policy/law | Life science
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation, University of Southern California

As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of settings. This Research in Service to Practice project will study how visual immersion and interactivity in augmented reality (AR) affects visitors' engagement and understanding of science. The research involves creating different versions of an AR exhibit to communicate paleontology research from the La Brea Tar Pits to the general public. Different versions of the exhibit will be compared to learn how design choices for immersion and interactivity impact visitors' engagement and understanding of science. The result of this study should be a model to follow for similar public exhibits, as well as design principles that generalize to AR experiences for a broader range of informal learning environments. This project will also demonstrate and report on specific AR mechanisms that help visitors understand the scientific process and increase knowledge about paleontology research.

The study includes a user-centered design and evaluation process with both formative and comparative studies. This project investigates two high-level design factors for mobile AR: visual immersion and interactivity. These impact the learning experience and the development so extensively that multiple versions are seldom compared. These factors also have unique considerations for informal settings, such as how to balance immersion against situational awareness (e.g., 3D viewers reduce field of view). One goal of this project is to systematically compare qualitatively different AR designs that convey equivalent science content and study these tradeoffs empirically. The second goal is to leverage these findings to publicly release an AR experience that promotes engagement, increases understanding of science, and reduces scientific misconceptions. This research will also contribute to understanding usability and logistical issues for different AR designs for public, outdoor, informal settings.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Team Members

Emily LindseyEmily LindseyPrincipal Investigator
Benjamin NyeBenjamin NyePrincipal Investigator
Gale SinatraGale SinatraCo-Principal Investigator
William SwartoutWilliam SwartoutCo-Principal Investigator

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