Diorama Explorer

A novel way to label and explore a diorama.

At MMGM, an impressive two-story diorama cuts through both levels of the museum, exhibiting geology below the surface of the earth and flora and fauna above. To activate the space without cluttering it with labels, Perch designed and developed an augmented reality display that visitors can rotate to view and interact with features of the diorama. Real-world fiber optic lights illuminate a feature when a visitor taps it on the digital screen, which then displays details about the selected item.

On the first floor screen, tapping the gem pocket illuminates the hidden tourmaline crystals within, boxed lighting highlights rock layers and fault lines, and many other touchpoints illuminate individual mineral deposits. Above ground on the second floor, point lighting highlights birds, fish, chipmunks, ferns, and more. The backdrop to the upper level is a landscape mural onto which projection-mapped rainbows, thunderstorms, and shooting stars can be triggered through the AR interface.

Behind the Magic

The Diorama Explorer is comprised of a 3D model and a touchscreen interface connected to programmable DMX lighting controllers, plus a custom content management system. Through the CMS, staff can edit rich content, set up lighting/effects triggers, and place “touch points” within the 3d model that correspond to diorama features. Additionally, the screen is mounted on a turntable with a rotation sensor that adjusts the view, bringing home the AR effect.

Our work on the Diorama Explorer spanned from concept to development to installation. It was essential to coordinate the right choices of technology (lighting, controllers, touchscreens, projectors) with content management and user experience. We chose to build a custom 3D model of the diorama for our UI versus camera-based AR experience, allowing us to overcome spatial constraints and control environmental factors such as poor lighting and shadows. The back end of the software manages over 100 touch points with custom lighting levels and content.