Nearly everyone who came to Bupa Magic Garden began by role playing unpacking a healthy picnic and sharing hand-made foods with each other. The table, shaped like an oversized picnic basket, used multi-touch technology facilitated by an internal projection and infra red sensing. Clever game design let everyone perpetually work and play.
Photo: Marinco Kojdanovski. Reproduced courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
The popular Magic Garden grew into a cultural phenomenon on the streets of Sydney between 2008-2014. A first of it's kind, this interactive installation enabled children and families to learn through play about "Eating Healthy and Exercising Healthy". There you could splash all you liked and dive into a digitally projected rock pool, chase the fish and crabs, catch butterflies and set birds free, and spend hours enjoying a picnic from a replenishing picnic basket .
The design contained 13 different interactive experiences and took 1.5 years to build from research to installation.
The Globetrotter (shaped like a cactus) was the ultimate discovery experience for our young culinary tourists. Inspired by a childhood memory of wanting to dig a tunnel to the other side of the world to see how people lived and ate together, visitors were taken on Google Earth style culinary adventures to learn the healthy mealtime habits and recipes of families of different cultures.
Photo: Nyein Aung
'Help your children learn about healthy eating and healthy activity. The Magic Garden was an imaginative environment, developed in consultation with health experts, where 2-8 year olds could play among pumpkins and mushrooms, chase fish in a digital pond or catch butterflies at the garden gate.'
"Too much of anything sweet is not good for you" was the intended message. When we created this design, we were afraid our panel of health experts would reject the idea of having sounds of dentist drills and illustrated flabby stomachs (for fear of using shock as an educational aid) but everyone loved it as much as the visitors.
Imagine putting your hand into a hole to feel a luscious jelly. The screen next to it confirms that yes in fact you are feeling a tasty sweet jelly. But then something odd happens. The wobbly jelly on the screen transforms into an illustration someone's "jelly belly".
There 3 more:
Too much ice cream gives you brain freeze.
Too much candy gives you nasty, disgusting holes in your teeth.
And way too much donut gives you a fat donut butt.
Kids love toilet humor, anything that crawls and seems disgusting to us. Being predominantly right brain developed, they explore freely with their natural sense of curiosity and imagination.
The Time Machine was an innovation in being the first form of interactive media to use Children's Philosophy to harness the natural sense of curiosity among kids.
Kids spent several minutes absorbed with helping Joey the Kangaroo make healthy life changing choices. It was quite an achievement to get children in such a busy space to stay focused for so long on the exhibition's most complex issues. It shows the power of Children's Philosophy.
The time Machine used a powerful reward system that involved children helping Joey acquire friends. Accumulating friends is incredibly powerful - just look at the success of social media platforms.
Narrating the story and asking children questions was an animatronic Kookaburra.
The experience of stepping in and out of the grape fruit was inspired by philosopher Plato's Parable of the Cave and Immanuel Kant's notion of the Stary Sky.
The interactive dealt with the most complex issues we found too difficult to engage using our model of "learning through play". The only way to engage children effectively and being inspired to make healthier choices was to let them begin to question and wonder. It was Sylvie Gustafsson (creator of the Time Machine's concept) who discovered and successfully implemented the great potential that Children's Philosophy has in creating more powerful educational interactives. A major milestone and innovation had been made in the Children's Philosophy industry.
Magic Garden's Garden Gate
Kids learned about fitness by having fun being active. They saw themselves on the big round screen and waved their arms about to to set birds free.
Magic Garden's Fairy Mushroom Village
This was a wonderful memory game aided by the voice of a fairy. Kids were given a sentence to repeat by touching mushroom that corresponded with the word,
As each word was pronounced in the sentence, a mushroom associated to the word would light up in colour.
We developed a new technology to sense touch through the plastic mushrooms.
Splash and chase fish in the Magic Garden's digital rock pool
Inspired by shadow puppetry and fantoccini shows a fully mechanised shadow puppet show was created to intrigue children about how mechanisms work.
All workings were visible from the large systems that were engineered especially for the showcase right down to the tiniest details such as colour coded rivets.
The design involved complex system design and a large amount of prototyping of gear systems that had only been proven in theory or to work outside of the constraints of a vandal resistant and busy public environments.
The scene was also layered to create depth through blurring of the background.
The Exhibition was extended 3 times due to popular demand.
Music Cube at The 80s Are Back
Stepping into this room of projections and mirrored walls, you could see yourself in the crowd of the RAT parties held in Sydney during the 80s.
The glass construction of the Music Cube used 3 layers of films that:
1. captured the projection
2. reflected your image
3. let people outside the exhibition see you dancing inside the cube. (That's why the Music Cube looks transparent here on the photo.)
A yellow control panel to the left acted as the high tech Jukebox that let you decide the nightclub party you wanted to enter.
Fashionista Table at Frock Stars
You're at a VIP fashion party surrounded by fashionistas like yourself. Strike a pose and take a glamorous photo of yourself in your best outfit and your accessories for the back party pages of a fashion magazine. Edit the layout, add cheeky captions to your polaroids, and hit publish... Then see check the published pages of other party goers.
About the exhibition (which is currently travelling):
"The exhibition Frock stars takes you behind the scenes to Australian Fashion Week. Experience the shows, the set and the scene. Relax in the VIP lounge, watch footage from past and present collections, see some of the best outfits from the first 15 years, plus exclusive interviews with designers, models and industry insiders!
From backstage to front row, Frock stars takes a look at the complex organisation behind the staging of this major event and the roles and experiences of selected people working inside Australian Fashion Week; from buyers, media and models to designers, volunteers and producers."
You've been thrown into the backstage chaos of fashion show for Australian International Fashion Week. Help the hair director and make-up artists get the models ready for the runway using the interactive videos of models displayed in the backstage mirrors. Watch the model's hair blow in the same direction you point a real hair dryer, their hair straighten and be fixed with a wand and spray, and style their facial features to suit the runway theme using lipstick, eye shadow...
The exhibition is currently travelling Australia after its debut at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum.
Benini Exposed. An Imersive Experience
Exhibition: Creating the Look: Benini and Fashion Photography
To immerse the visitor in a poetic atmosphere of fantasy and photographic artistry using images created during 30 years by fashion photographers Bruno and Hazel Benini was the creative and technical concept of Jean-Francois Lanzarone at the Powerhouse Museum. Krister helped prototype his idea of this amazing experience using mini projectors and mirrors in preparation for the full scale installation shown here.
A prototype and installation of a room of projected photographs. The projections and mirrors were angled to create a play on perspective familiar to the techniques of Australian fashion photographer Bruno Benini.
See the design process.
A play on creating perspectives akin to the techniques used by Australian fashion photographer Bruno Benini.
Sam's Neighbourhood Maze gave toddlers exclusive access to the most complete world of the Wiggles characters. Driving the tiny hand crafted Big Red Car around the maze let kids visit each friend and build their own stories or complete quests of finding the missing items of each friend.
Sam's Neighbourhood Maze ensured parents became enthusiastic mediators who facilitated learning during their child's play. The design gave toddlers opportunities for creative play and enticed parents to help their children learn arithmetic by involving the parents in constructive play.
In this electromechanical game, kids ran errands and performed imaginative quests for their favourite Wiggles characters while driving around the Wiggles' neighbourhood in Sam's (miniature) Big Red Car . When the car passed a character or a missing item they were seeking, a counter showing the item would light up along the top of the board.
Toddlers only saw what they are playing with (what is directly infront of them) and would have missed the counter light up. Left brain focused parents who had a global perspective (helped by watching from above) would instantly see the logical pattern (a form of basic arithmetic) of lights and call out to their child "Oh look, why don't you find the rest of them". This was the social hook for getting parents more involved with their children in busy public spaces.
This game was also a first in having mapped out so much of the Wiggle's world.
"Making a healthy fruit salad is fun" was the subliminal message of this interactive. Kids learn through play (we all do).
Inspired by Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja game, this Natural Usewr Interface using an X-box Kinekt setup intuitively made children swing their arms like knives slicing through fruits and catching them in a fruit bowl.
What could be more fun than to help Sam, the Wiggle, keep his Big Red Car in perfect trim. Pop open the hood to see the engine running on screen, tighten the bolts on the wheels with a ratchet gun, pump the tires, test the lights and don't forget to signal everyone you're done by beeping the horn. Then return the tools to their rightful spot to keep the garage clean.
This animatronic Talking Door welcomes visitors to explore the musical world of The Wiggles. The Talking Door is as prominent a feature of the Wiggles stage shows. Many young parents who brought their toddlers to this exhibition world had grown with The Wiggles themselves.
SS Feathersword contained a range of interactive mechanised and electromechanical experiences for role playing first mate. "Hoist the flag!" Put on your life vests. Raise the anchor at the capstan and drop it again to hear it splash. Steer the ship... then hop into dingy and row ashore to explore the musical world of The Wiggles.
The Climatic Forecaster used over 100 years of weather data collected and annotated by hand to create an interactive animation in context to natural disasters such as bushfires and draughts to trigger the natural impulse in visitors wondering "What will the future of Australia and the world around us look like? How will it affect me and my children?
See the making of the Ecologic exhibition.
Climatic Forecaster at Ecologic Exhibition
A screenshot of the Climatic Forecaster. Move the slider on the timeline to see how the topographical conditions of Australia changed and became more extreme. Watch more frequent natural disasters pop up as video reports taken from news archives.
Inspiring a new generation of water engineers and scientists was a futuristic water testing lab with a mission. High schools students role played being the detectives on a fictional case of a polluted water supply using a range of equipment to solve the mystery.
A water quality microscope gave students the facts behind some of the nastiest and deadly form of bacteria that reside in water bodies before purification. Move the carousel of Petri dishes to play each video.
The Engineering Excellence Awards were a long series of highly interactive exhibitions celebrating the innovations and their creators using a wide range of interactive demonstrators.
See here how the film Minority Report inspired the development of a new technology - floating glowing graphics that were touch sensitive and able to control multimedia, robotics and more.
See its design and development.
Floating Solar Panel
Exhibition: Engineering Excellence Awards 2011
A floating power panel's innovation was demonstrated by turning the panel into a touch sensitive video display. The purpose-built technology was completely hidden, seamlessly integrating the videos and new touch-technology into what seemed like a straight-forward solar panel.
The 2011Engineering Excellence Awards exhibition, complete with its new touch sensitive illuminated graphics. Touching the seemingly levitating glowing graphics (almost like holograms) controlled events of multimedia displays, mechatronic simulators, games and more.
The global humanitarian engineering projects of Engineers Without Borders were highlighted using the case study video and animations showing the build process and function of a floating toilet for the community living on the giant polluted Ton Le Sap lake.
A bus that physically changes the structure of lanes to 'widen' roads during peak hour in Sydney, was turned into an interactive demonstrator with unique technologies that masked its workings, at the 2011 Engineering Excellence Awards. Controlling an interface made the transparent bus with its visible workings appear to move all by itself and no driving mechanism.
See the development process.
Inner West Busway interactive model
Exhibition: Engineering Excellence Awards 2011
A close-up of a transparent model bus used to change lanes to increase the number of lanes available during Sydney peak hour. Steve Mason who built the model and interactive for the 2013 Engineering Excellence Awards, created the magic of the bus appearing to drive itself, by hiding a driving mechanism that used magnets to pull the bus along.
An early detection system for micro-cracks appearing in bridges was demonstrated using a bus driving over a bridge made of a polarised gel wall section, at the 2013 Engineering Excellence Awards. When the wall flexed it created rainbow patterns that highlighted the real stress around any micro-cracks.
This train simulator demonstrating an early warning and danger detection system for the Fast China Train was first shown at the Engineering Excellence Awards in 2010 and then refurbished and donated to the Trainworks museum.