Icon for: Bob Hirshon

BOB HIRSHON

Springtail Media LLC, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Institute for Learning...
Facilitators’
Choice
Public Discussion

Continue the discussion of this presentation on the Multiplex. Go to Multiplex

  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 9, 2022 | 07:27 p.m.

    Thanks for checking out our project video! Co-creating an augmented reality game with young adults has been challenging, but we think the result was worth it. You can download WildSpot AR from both Android and iOS app stores, if you’d like to try it. There are currently game spaces in or near urban National Parks in 20 cities. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the game, and learn from any experiences you’ve had working with and/or designing for young adults.

  • May 10, 2022 | 09:20 a.m.

    What a cool project - thanks for sharing!

    How many youth did you work with as part of this project and would you mind elaborating on the some of the challenges you had?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bob Hirshon
  • Icon for: Monae Verbeke

    Monae Verbeke

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 10:16 a.m.

    Hi Nicole! We worked with ~40 youth in developing the game from both DC and San Fran. 

    I would say that some of our biggest challenges have been the constantly changing technology. Every time a new release has been built for the Augmented Reality software that has meant some restrategizing - often limiting what we have actually been able to create (due to money/time). As well, COVID particularly influenced our ability to continue to meet with youth to test out and iterate on the game. We are just getting back into a space where we have the opportunity to meet with youth in person. 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bob Hirshon
  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 10, 2022 | 11:52 a.m.

    Hi! Yes, I agree with Monae (co-PI and researcher for the project). New versions of software would sometimes allow us to implement new functionality, but is it worth it to add a new feature if it will leave out players with older phones? Given our target audience, we had to forego some new improvements. Also, every phone operating system update meant going back to make sure the app was still compatible. 

    This is such a dynamic field; you do your best at the proposal-writing stage to anticipate how the technology will develop, and how the state of the art will inform the demands of your youth co-developers, but no one can really know what the field will look like a year or two in the future.

  • Icon for: Nathan Holbert

    Nathan Holbert

    Facilitator
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 03:45 p.m.

    Interesting project. One real challenge of AR design is getting users to engage with the non-digital aspect of the context. Pokemon Go famously had people walking themselves into dangerous situations because they were so engrossed in the screen. Getting people to national parks is great, and perhaps an engaging game is a good way to encourage people to come out. But how are you working to ensure that the phone doesn't become a barrier to engaging with the national park itself. Put another way, how are you encouraging players to put the phone down and be present in their surroundings? Has your team come up with any interesting design insights to prompt engagement with the space?

    I'm also curious about the citizen science component. Is that integrated with the game activity?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bob Hirshon
  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 10, 2022 | 05:14 p.m.

    Hi, Nathan:

    Great questions! Avoiding some of the pitfalls of Pokemon Go was very important to us. We geo-fence our playing area in an open field, away from traffic and other dangers. To begin play, you enter through a portal, and all of the game elements are within a 50-meter equilateral triangle. All play is done through the front-view camera mode, so the AR elements are always superimposed on the real world. In Pokemon Go, players could remove the camera view and play in screen mode without seeing their surroundings, which made it more likely that they would wander into danger.

    The primary Quests draw people into the National Park and engage players with fanciful elements. But players complete those in about 15 minutes. Surrounding those scifi Quests are "WaySide Quests." These are AR markers placed in areas of scientific interest and ask players to conduct real-world investigations, using their phones to collect data.

    In "Pollination Planet," players document different types of pollinators in the area. In "Space Invaders," they hunt for invasive species. And in "Showtime: (city name)" they look for a pair of local plants and report whether or not they are currently in bloom. These are just examples; we, or NPS staff, can quickly add or delete WaySide Quests on any topic.

    Finally, upon completion of each WaySide Quest, players are invited to join real-world citizen science projects, accessed through our partner, SciStarter. For instance, at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, once players complete "Showtime: Cabrillo" and report on whether or not two native plants are currently in bloom, they are invited to join a local phenology project within Nature's Notebook (it's called "Bee a Phenology Observer at Cabrillo National Monument").

    So this is a three-part strategy: attract new audiences to urban National Parks with the primary game; draw their attention to areas of scientific interest nearby with the WaySide Quests and engage them in basic observation and data gathering; and, upon completion of those challenges, invite them to sign up for actual citizen science projects relevant to the work/play they just completed.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Nathan Holbert
  • Icon for: Nathan Holbert

    Nathan Holbert

    Facilitator
    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 07:38 a.m.

    Thanks Bob this clarifies things for me. And I'll say I quite like this 3-part strategy. I hope you're tracking the participation in each of these aspects. One might imagine participation drops off a bit (that is fewer players sign up for citizen science projects than play the game), but it would be valuable to see who, how, and when people engage and disengage from the experience. 

    The WaySide quests also sound quite interesting. I look forward to seeing design reflects on these quests from your team!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bob Hirshon
  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 12, 2022 | 10:36 a.m.

    Yes, there is an expected drop off between people who come to play and people who go on to engage in citizen science. But even the game itself has (sneaky) science process skills embedded, within challenges like distinguishing between organism species through fairly subtle morphological and color pattern differences and, in later Quests, identifying cloud types and decoding and making sense of ancient runes. 

    I saw that you've been investigating having youth create their own stories about engagement with the environment, and we had a story-creator toolkit in the original WildSpot. It was one of the items that got voted off the island by our youth collaborators, who thought it was too overtly "educational" and that few members of our target audience would use it. But I'm curious about how your young people viewed your version of it, and if they found the activity engaging. I think it's something that we could bring back in future versions of WildSpot, maybe as an earned game enhancement for players that reach a target point total. Maybe an offline discussion?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Joshua Danish
  • Icon for: Joshua Danish

    Joshua Danish

    Facilitator
    Professor and Program Chair
    May 12, 2022 | 09:05 a.m.

    This is really interesting, thanks for sharing! Building perhaps on Nathan's questions, I wonder if you can say more about how you find the youth shifting, or not shifting, from the sci-fi environment to the citizen science aspects of the design? Do they view them as equally interesting? Do they see them as integrated?  I know ed tech has a long history of being accused of making "chocolate covered broccoli" where something healthy is just covered with an appealing layer, but it's not a great fit. I wonder if you can share more about how you avoided those pitfalls? 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Nathan Holbert
  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 12, 2022 | 09:23 a.m.

    Yes, great question, and this has been an issue right from the start, in both our Advisory Board meetings and in our Youth Advisors meetings. Our Youth Advisors were great at rooting out broccoli, including items that I thought would be appealing, and I lost those battles. Which is probably for the best. Then our adult advisors would say "Hey, where's the broccoli?" The thing is, National Parks already attract broccoli lovers effectively, so our game had to hold its own as a pure game that would attract broccoli haters, and a "win" would be that we would then, unequivocally, have attracted our target audience into National Parks. But our further goal would be to show that with just a mild reward (more game points), broccoli haters would at least check out some science-based WaySide WildSpots nearby, especially if they're pretty cool and interesting. If not, hey, at least we got them to the Park, and maybe they'll check them out later. And then if only a small subset of the broccoli-haters actually find the WaySides interesting enough to play and THEN check out actual citizen science projects, we'll have a real win. But there's no expectation that all or most of the people who come to play will become citizen scientists. 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Joshua Danish
  • Icon for: Joshua Danish

    Joshua Danish

    Facilitator
    Professor and Program Chair
    May 12, 2022 | 10:14 a.m.

    Awesome! Thanks for the reply and clarifying. I really appreciate how well aligned this is with your targets of just getting people there. Thanks for sharing! 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bob Hirshon
  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 12, 2022 | 10:18 a.m.

    Sure, but just to clarify my clarification, we definitely need our target audience engaged in the science, but realize that it's a multi-step process, starting with getting them outdoors and in the Parks. 

  • Icon for: Joshua Danish

    Joshua Danish

    Facilitator
    Professor and Program Chair
    May 12, 2022 | 10:38 a.m.

    Fair point and I apologize for over-stating as well. I just meant it was a good reminder about the different goals we have for lengthy in-school curriculum units and these kinds of informal spaces where generating some interest and excitement is a valuable outcome on its own! 

  • Icon for: Josh Sheldon

    Josh Sheldon

    Facilitator
    Project Lead
    May 13, 2022 | 06:03 a.m.

    wow! This is exciting, and in an area that's dear to me. I worked on TaleBlazer (and it's predecessors) from the MIT STEP lab for a number of years. I'm happy to see someone taking something similar forward.

    I fully empathize with your observations about the challenges of keeping up with the technologies. Definitely not an easy task.

    I also appreciate the discussion about balancing interaction with the device and the amazing things around players in the real world. We sought to find ways, as I see you are, to make the device a tool to enhance the experience with the real world objects/spaces. To that end, did you test different modes/experiences that the co-design teams considered? Or do you have plans to test & introduce new features along these lines?

    One of the challenges we explored was the idea of "place-based" vs. "space-based" experiences. The idea being that a space-based game could be played on any football field anywhere, but a place-based game depended on local features and was dependent on that particular place. Of course, that presented the challenge of training folks who know those places to author games. Has that been challenging for your team? What possibilities do you think exist for doing further crowd-sourcing, possibly going beyond national parks to state and/or municipal parks or natural areas?

    Finally, this may be a fine-point, but I sometimes wonder what the difference between chocolate and broccoli really is. If a learner comes to a park knowing very little about ecology, but the game allows them to interact with concepts of ecology in an exploratory way, might they learn that they do have an interest in or passion for ecology, even though it might have been considered broccoli previously? Is broccoli information or a technique used to convey/interact with information?

  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 16, 2022 | 12:03 p.m.

    Hi, Josh:

    I'm just checking out TaleBlazer and it seems really great! I'll sign up and give it a spin. Is it still active?

    Regarding interacting with the device vs interacting with the environment, we had a lot of discussions with our youth, but didn't have funding to actually do A vs. B comparisons. We ended up doing both, with the primary three-level game focusing on the AR objects, and the WaySide Quests focusing on the local environment. As far as adding new tools, we're near the end of the project, so there's nothing planned right now. But there are new AR tools for conducting real-world measurements that we'd love to add to future versions. Frankly, we hoped they'd be available a couple years ago, but the overall AR development environment has been pretty slow.

    Regarding "space based" vs. "place based," our primary game – the series of three-level science fiction games, starting with Fungal Rumble - is definitely "space based." We can place it anywhere that there's a 50-meter playing area that's safe, and the story still "makes sense." The areas endangered by encroachment from our interdimensional space tourists just happen to he National Parks because what better place to set up interdimensional tourist spots? There's already a visitor center, ample parking, etc. And lots of natural resources, flora and fauna to eat... or, rather, appreciate.

    The WaySide Quests located near the primary game space can be space or place-based, depending on the needs of the NPS staff. The Quest can involve a specific place-based feature, or involve general observations. Our hope is that active NPS staff in each park will guide these, and we have seen that happen at Cabrillo National Monument, but less so in other parks. I think a combination of the pandemic and maybe general NPS staffing and budgeting 2017 to 2021 and maybe politics made it challenging for parks to commit to jumping onto this sort of commitment.

    To your last point, about players discovering that they really have a passion for exploration and science, but hadn't realized it before, Yes, that's absolutely the plan. And really, isn't that goal of all science education, informal and formal? To create a motivating spark of interest/excitement that generates self-sustaining energy around a topic that wasn't there before? Once people are curious and motivated, everything else is easier.

  • Icon for: Josh Sheldon

    Josh Sheldon

    Facilitator
    Project Lead
    May 16, 2022 | 12:31 p.m.

    Thanks for this thoughtful reply, Bob:

    The TaleBlazer editor should still be live. (It was when I checked it out at some point in the last 6 months, and I have no information that it was taken down). I don't know whether the Android and iOS apps to play have been kept current enough to be live on the respective stores or not. I know that the system has essentially been mothballed, with no development time devoted to it for several years.

  • Icon for: Bob Hirshon

    Bob Hirshon

    Lead Presenter
    Founder/CEO
    May 17, 2022 | 02:04 p.m.

    Ah, okay. I'll give it a try and find out what's still working. Thanks so much for your comments, and for your work in broadening participation in STEM!

  • Icon for: Josh Sheldon

    Josh Sheldon

    Facilitator
    Project Lead
    May 17, 2022 | 02:40 p.m.

    No problem. I also pointed my colleagues who run the lab that TaleBlazer comes from toward your project. They're impressed & happy to know about it.

    If you'd like, I'm happy to facilitate an introduction - just shoot me an email.

  • To post to this discussion go to