Ecsite 2016: impact through sharing

Team members Andy Lloyd and Bethan Ross shared the learnings and aspirations of the live research experiment ongoing through the interactive research pod at Centre for Life with the participants of the European conference for science centres and museums this month. The 27th Ecsite Annual Conference took place in June in Graz, Austria. It gathered 1,081 participants from 53 different countries, making it the second largest Ecsite Annual Conference ever.

As well as Beth and Andy presenting at the conference, Andy was interviewed for the European network of science centres and museums Magazine – Spokes#20 – June 2016. In it, Andy reports:

“I received a lot of interest in the live research exhibit in the Brain Zone. The experiment was devised by Anthropology researchers from Durham University. They are interested in social learning and “cumulative culture”, the way ideas are shared and passed on.  Previous research with non-human primates suggest that copying is very common, but humans are especially good at innovating and being creative. Our exhibit explores how the environmental conditions influence the creativity people demonstrate. We can change whether people are able to see and interact with each other as they play with building blocks, and record what they make. Interest was very high from other science centre people, so we have created a free pdf to show what we did and how we did it, that anyone can access here. The researchers want to track how the research ideas spread, so if you do make use of any of this we would love to hear how it goes”.

We’ve added a new Resources page to this website so that anyone can download our free guide in pdf format: How To… create an Interactive Research Pod.

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Forum kudos for interactive research pod’s hardware set-up

Over May, technical experts have been giving kudos to the interactive research pod‘s hardware set-up. Adam Boutcher, Centre for Life’s IT Systems Administrator, shared on hardware provider UBNT’s community forum the hardware set-up that he and project team member Bethan Ross have iterated to highly resilient levels. Within a week, the new post has already received 13 kudos points from community members, building on 8 kudos points Adam’s initial post received.

Kudos for adam's forum post

Adam explains in the forum post the improvements made to the original hardware set-up to solve some of the initial problems the team had during piloting phase (the camera viewing angles weren’t wide enough, and visitors tried to move the cameras). The hardware system solution had to enable automatic digital data collection, capturing user activity at an exhibit.

By using dome cameras on the pod, we were able to widen out the camera angle to capture more user activity:

 

We used heavy duty glue to secure the cameras in their housing to make sure the dome cameras do not  move when they are touched. We also chose to keep on the plastic lens covers the dome cameras were packaged with (the cameras are part of a fixed exhibit which has to endure an expected lifetime of 5-8 years).

The overhead camera was mounted high enough above the pod to capture activity across all three workstations in the pod.

The interactive research pod’s final hardware list is:

  • 3x Linx 10″ Windows 10 Tablets
  • 3x Unifi Video Dome Cameras (UVC Dome)
  • 1x Unifi Video Camera (UVC)
  • 1x UniFi Switch 8 Port (Beta model)
  • 1x UniFi AP (UAP)
  • 1x Server (Dual Core Xeon, 6GB Ram, 128GB SSD, 2x 3TB HDD in RAID1) – Running Apache2, MySQL, (LimeSurvey) and UniFi Video

AdamsscriptAdam also shared on the forum the shell script he wrote to join all the video camera recordings together, using ffmpeg to automate a daily video export, which has also received kudos. This allows the digital video data collected at the Centre for Life to automatically be transferred to Durham University’s secure server, where it is hosted to enable Durham researchers to analyse it.

Many thanks to Adam for his solution focussed approach to solving the IT hardware and data transfer issues. The external kudos he is receiving from the UBNT forum is echoed by the project team.

Chair of Wellcome Trust visits exhibit pod

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Baroness Manningham-Buller chats with the research team by the exhibit.

 

The Chair of the Wellcome Trust, Baroness Manningham-Buller visited the interactive research pod, and spoke to the Design for Creativity and Innovation in Informal Science Learning team of academic researchers and science centre practitioners. The team explained to the Baroness about the live science experiments we are undertaking with it, and the research outcomes we might see. The Baroness officially opened the Brain Zone gallery at the Centre for Life, where the interactive research pod is hosted amongst other exhibits that engage people with exploring how our brains work.

The Brain Zone has had input from practitioners and designers, and also from from a wide-range of scientists and researchers, from neuroscientists to psychologists. However, our multidisciplinary team of academics from Durham University broadened out the disciplines represented to include anthropology, digital humanities, and computer scientists! Continue reading “Chair of Wellcome Trust visits exhibit pod”

Piloting the pod

exhibit pod
The exhibit pod, with built-in video recording equipment and consent granting via touchscreen tablets.

Following nine months of iterative design and development by the research team, the interactive research pod has been piloted live over October half term in 2015 and during February 2016 half-term holiday. Some of you may have helped us experiment with it – thank you! We gave you the challenge of building the best building you could with simple wooden blocks. We were able to record the construction process and the finished results through a set-up of digital surveillance cameras built into the exhibit.

We gained permission to use the images of people building constructions through online consent forms on touchscreen tablets. If consent was given, the tablet screen exhibited green. Continue reading “Piloting the pod”