AR: The visitor as researcher

Dick van Dijk

We have had four laboratory days now in our project with the botanical gardens. On 12 September 2013 all participants again gathered at the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. In our last session we had examined three prototypes on their relevance for the gardens and their visitors, their ease of use and the possibilities for participation. Of course, all had their pros and cons, but the AR magnifying glass was the clear favorite to elaborate on, for the following reasons:

  • the metaphor fits the character of the botanical garden as a knowledge centre;
  • the shape is appealing, you can zoom in and out almost automatically, one can look at plants from more than one angle;
  • it enriches the perception (‘augmented reality’) in an exciting way;
  • the storytelling structure is flexible enough for both content and interaction;
  • the concept is generic enough to make the application useful in more gardens and for other target groups. 

To test these assumptions ourselves and with the public we went on making specific cases with ‘markers’ (images that can be recognized by the AR software Vuforia). We used these two boundary conditions:

  • stories should define the meaning of specific plants for health care reasons;
  • we focus (for the moment) on our grand parents and grandchildren (being named often as target groups in an earlier analysis).

The challenge here is to use the metaphor (the magnifying glass) as visually as possible. We are so used to computer interaction, making it diffucult not to think in terms of buttons, clicks, links, etc.. So what really is the essence of the interaction with a magnifying glass? We went on researching along these lines with test persons in the garden, who volunteered when passing by. With enthusiastic reactions as a result, and many issues that could be enhanced. Some wanted to use it at their next visit...

In the next meeting at Hortus Arcadië in Nijmegen we will evaluate the ideas further and after that we are going to test them with the audience. If you are in the neighbourhood you are welcome to join us, time and location will follow in a next blog update.

About the author

  • Dick van Dijk is creative director and head of programme at Waag.