Dinosaur Ridge AR
An Augmented Reality experience to recreate the past
Role: UX Researcher, UI Designer, Creative Direction
With the increased use of technologies and smartphones, we can generate augmented reality experiences to visualize the past in ways that we could not achieve before. Dinosaur Ridge reached out to CU Denver to seek students interested in developing an application to create a digital experience that helps visualize visitors what the environment looked like when dinosaurs inhabited earth.
With the use of 3D modeling, data visualization, and deep research on the past, my team and I helped our client, Dinosaur Ridge, to launch an interactive app to visualize the past. With the use of gamification, we were able to develop a learning app that integrates Augmented Reality to enhance the learning experience for visitors.
Visitors find themselves having a hard time visualizing what the track site looked like in the past while being engaged. The goals of Dinosaur Ridge are to continue expanding the community’s awareness of the track site while strengthening their educational program.
“People come to see these tracks.. and they have trouble envisioning what Colorado looked like (and what the dinosaurs looked like) at that time.”
-Kermit, Volunteer at Dinosaur Ridge
Improve Visitor Experiences with a more immersive, interactive educational function.
Use AR as a way to communicate data and information about the tracks, as well as 3D models of dinosaurs.
Create a learning experience that is not site-specific and that can be taken home while generating income based on donations for Dinosaur Ridge.
Discovery and research
During this phase, the team was able to walk around the dinosaur track site, and we discovered some opportunities to engage visitors with the site. During one of our brainstorming sessions, we came up with the idea of creating track markers and install these at one of the main sites. These markers would activate the Augmented Reality app.
During our walk around the site, we discovered that the physical space might present challenges for visitors putting them in danger (users paying attention to their phones and not to the potential risks of being outside).
As the person in charge of creating the user flows and user interaction, I wanted to ensure that users were engaged when using the app. I wanted them to feel like they played a game while learning about their favorite dinosaurs and prehistoric eras.
I began to research educational applications and the way they interact with their target audience. This was when I discovered Regina Nelson and her work on Gamification Dynamics, Mechanics, and Design Elements.
“Well-designed user interactions in a computer game can enhance user experience in terms of playfulness, immersion, and flow, resulting in better user engagement during game playing”.
General income families, children (programs range from pre-k-1)
School districts/educators looking to partner, engage with an interactive learning experience
Secondary: Donors, individual donors looking to contribute to the experience.
Prototyping and ideation
Iterating the final solution
After a week of reviewing our prototype, we were struggling with the UI to match Dinosaur Ridge’s brand. Since they do not have a consolidated brand strategy or guidelines, we had an opportunity to explore different iterations, and based on the client’s feedback we decided to pick a final route.
Computer-generated graphics by Satu Gillispie.
The CG creates an immersive experience for the user by transforming their environment into a scene from prehistoric times. Our team was able to collaborate and brainstorm on generating ideas to create an experience that was immersive, educational, and entertaining.
Animation created by Heidi Perez.
The timelapse was created to show how the mountains were made and how the geological landscape of the dinosaur track site has changed over time. When developing the prototype and talking to the volunteers and Dinosaur Ridge, we gather insights from them, mentioning that it might be ideal for this video to be the introduction of the app when first downloading the app as many visitors may have trouble grasping the concept of how the earth layers change with time. We decided to include a skip button in case visitors are familiar with the concept or might want to go straight to the AR experience.
The AR markers function like a QR code where users can point at a specific marker and with the Unity technology, the desired AR experience will start. The idea behind the markers is to have them placed at the dinosaur track site and as well as sell/exchange them for a donation at the gift shop as a way for visitors to take the immersive experience home.
This project was extremely rewarding to work on. I had an incredible multidisciplinary team and a great client. Some of the issues we faced were around Unity’s technology limitations, but we were able to work around these. For most of us, this was our first time working with AR technologies, so were extremely excited to take on this project. The final client feedback was extremely positive and we would continue to support Dinosaur Ridge on the expansion of this project. The app is currently in the stage of funding for development and would probably launch by the end of the year.