In order to improve data capture and collection the interactive research pod has been designed to encourage creativity and innovation. Additionally, it has in-built digital research tools and information systems that can be used to both gather ethical consent, and capture data about user interaction and experience. Underneath the user stations, a small lockable cupboard houses power cables for touchscreen tablets and video cameras, routers and switches, a PC, and a 3TB hard drive. The design of the user stations on the exhibit pod provide mounting points for Internet Protocol (IP) cameras to capture individual user behaviour, as well as the status of the tablets’ screens which are used to gain ethical consent.
Another IP camera is mounted above the centre of the pod to capture an overview for cross-reference. Power cables for the user station cameras run inside the pod. The IP cameras are connected to a Network Video Recorder (NVR) stored in the locked cupboard underneath the pod. Usually used for building security surveillance, the NVR and IP camera system is also suitable for research purposes. It creates a secure local area network to allow researchers to log-in to control the cameras, and view recordings or live footage. It also has an intuitive, configurable, and feature‑packed user interface with advanced features such as motion detection, auto‑discovery, user-level security, storage management, reporting, and mobile device support.
The system is easy to set-up each day. The NVR system turns on by itself with the exhibition power-up in the morning. The cameras record from that point on for the rest of the day. At the end of the day the system is turned off manually to ensure the captured data saves to the hard drive kept locked onsite in the cupboard under the exhibition pod. The tablets which host the consent form and the activity instructions need switching on manually, but automatically boot into the online consent system in a kiosk mode (i.e. it only allows access to the consent system). The tablets run on mains power, so are also on all day.
Each tablet runs its own consent survey to enable linking with the corresponding camera, of that particular user station. The cameras and consent system have a shared timestamp, so this can be cross-referenced to ensure use of only footage for which Centre visitors have granted consent. In addition, and for ease at the data analysis stage, the cameras record the permission screen. Only footage showing the tablets with green or yellow screens is kept for research purposes (red tablet screens indicate that participants have completed the ethical consent survey on the tablet and declined permission for their data to be used in the study). A cloud-based open source software survey system (Limesurvey) was used to seek ethical consent. A series of questions required user responses through check boxes and buttons, which could be easily and quickly navigated using the tablets’ touchscreens. The wording of the consent form was agreed in advance by Durham University’s ethical consent board, and followed the British Psychological Society’s guidelines for internet mediated research.
External kudos has been given to the hardware set-up of the pod by technical community members.
The ultimate aim of the exhibit is to maximise the impact of informal science learning opportunities available to the general public and provide evidence of what design features in exhibits facilitate successful informal science learning.