Digging new technology

New app provides augmented reality experience for fossil museum

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/06/2017 (2005 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Great things can happen when you pursue your passions.

Danielle and Corey King are the couple behind ZenFri, a creative arts and entertainment company that they run out of their Ottawa Avenue home. Dan Blair, a St. James resident, is the founder of Bit Space Development, an interactive digital media studio with a focus on virtual reality that operates out of the North Forge Fabrication Lab (125 Adelaide St.).

ZenFri and Bit Space recently partnered with the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Man., to create the Fossil Discovery Adventure, a free app (available on Android and iOS) that allows visitors to the museum to engage with the displays using augmented reality.

Sheldon Birnie (From left) Dan Blair of BitSpace Development and Danielle and Corey King of ZenFri Inc. are the developers behind the new interactive Fossil Discovery Adventure app for the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Man. (SHELDON BIRNIE/CANSTAR/THE HERALD)

“Heck, it sounded like a lot of fun,” said Corey King, who acted as designer/producer on the project. “We consider ourselves as storytellers. We find projects we want to do and figure out a way to do it.”

Visitors tour the museum using the app uncover clues and answer questions related to the exhibits around them. In the process, they collect 3D fossils to build a complete skeleton of “Bruce”, a world-record setting mosasaur skeleton that was discovered in the area in the 1970s.

“The app ends up looking kind of like a list of markers that you explore the museum to find,” explained Blair, technical lead and developer on the project. “The way it functions is when you launch the camera in the app, you scan the markers and we bring them to life with a 3D object. I don’t know of any other museum that has something like this.”

In some ways, the Fossil Discovery Adventure is akin to Pokemon Go.

“Before Pokemon Go, I think we sounded like crazy people when we’d try to describe location based augmented reality,” King said with a laugh.

The intent of the app is to provide a deeper experience at the museum, engaging the audience in a fun, unique manner.

“A lot of kids, when they go to a museum, they run from piece to piece, specimen to specimen,” said Danielle King, who was the writer for the app “They don’t really read what’s on the walls. This kind of slows them down. They have to look at the questions, and read the walls to find the answers.”

“We’re trying to make the learning experience not like learning,” King added.

The app officially launched at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre on May 25.

“I think it was quite successful,” Blair said. “The technology engaged (the kids). We got to see them get really excited, racing each other while still spending more time at each exhibit.”

“The kids at the launch were super excited,” King said. “They seemed to like it equivalent to my highest delusions. We’ll keep refining it, but I was pretty happy.”

SUPPLIED PHOTO The new Fossil Discovery Adventure app, which provides visitors to the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Man., with an immersive, augmented reality experience.

For ZenFri and Bit Space, the experience of developing the app was unique, as well.
“It was a very hands on digital media project,” Blair said.

“Normally, developing an app, it just works on your device, so you can just sit in your basement and make it,” King said. “With this one, we had to make quite a few trips out to Morden, to talk to them, to measure the spaces.”

“It took us a month just to get the markers looking good and functioning perfectly,” Danielle King added.

For both parties, the project was also a bit of a passion project.

“I always wanted to do something on dinosaurs,” Blair said, smiling. “I still want to do something with space.”

“This was our first shot at something like this on a tight budget, and I think it came out very well,” King said. “This is something we can do now, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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Twitter: @heraldWPG

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at sheldon.birnie@canstarnews.com Call him at 204-697-7112

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