Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Expedition Health Exhibit

Denver, CO

Visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Expedition Health exhibition quickly find themselves engaged in highly interactive and highly-personalized activities featuring AV displays, projection, and touchscreens from Electrosonic.

The primary challenge of the project was the tight confines available for the installation. Each station was built with the minimum equipment necessary. Simplicity was the key to the design.

The museum’s newest permanent exhibition, Expedition Health is a 10,000-square foot health-science exhibit about how the human body constantly changes and adapts in ways you can see, measure, and optimize. The experience is framed by the compelling story of an authentic Rocky Mountain expedition organized by the museum as a keystone of its Health Science Initiative. Expedition ”buddies,” a diverse group of residents of the region, become virtual learning companions who accompany visitors through the exhibition and relate visitors’ activities to those they experienced during their own training programs and expedition.

“Expedition Health has been one of the most fun and interactive exhibits we’ve been involved with,” says Guy Fronte, Electrosonic’s co-project manager with Gary Barnes. "The real challenge was making all the electronics fit into the very compact spaces made by the [main fabricator, Art Guild],"

Upon entry visitors sign in, electronically select a virtual “buddy,” and receive a Peak Pass card to activate key components of the exhibition. The Peak Pass components recognize visitors, recall their personal data, and enable them to record their own performance at some of those components. At the exit visitors can print out a personal profile with data and images as a take-home souvenir. A unique login number allows them to extend their experience on the Expedition Health Website.

Sign in kiosks

In the first interactive exhibit, visitors can place their hands on sensors to see and hear their own EKG. More feedback about heart rates is generated via the Bio Ride, featuring exercise bikes where visitor-cyclists can keep an animated rider moving.

EKG Monitor

Visitors move on to one of the exhibition’s coolest components: Wind Chill. They place their hands in the glass-fronted device to activate temperature-controlled air that demonstrates the effect of windchill on body temperature.

An identical monitor figures in the nearby Altitude Adjustment exhibit, along with an HD player that sources a video about how urine production increases to help the body adjust when you climb to high elevations.

Electrosonic provided a control system for the Full Body Viewer developed by Scott Snibbe. When visitors stand in front of a camera and mirror system, the Full Body Viewer displays a generic full-size CG image of the body that reveals its muscle and skeletal structure and vascular and cardiopulmonary systems.

Next, a touchscreen informs visitors about the nutritional value of foods as they play the Feed a Hungry Hiker game. Visitors can then move on to Measure Up, an activity where they stand in front of a camera system and green screen, spread their arms, and see their image displayed on a 46-inch LCD monitor below the camera. The Height & Arm Span Investigator graphically demonstrates how a person’s arm span compares to their height.

The Cross the Stream balance activity probably posed the most challenges for Electrosonic, according to Fronte. In this exhibit an eight-foot long balance beam, beveled on each side to catch visitors who misstep, divides the “stream” in half. Two ceiling-mounted projectors were precisely placed by Electrosonic to project synchronized images onto floor screens that flank the balance beam and give visitors the impression of crossing a moving stream.

The cross the stream balance activity

As visitors explore Size Up Your Stride and the Walk Investigator, a camera system records them walking along a length of wall as they try to increase their energy output. Each visitor’s unique walk is displayed in silhouette on three contiguous 46-inch monitors in banner mode. A touchscreen delivers feedback about the visitors’ gaits and energy scores.

Electrosonic furnished more stations for Top 10 Traumas on the Trail, an interactive about injuries and the body’s healing processes, and UV and You, about skin types and UV effects. Nearby visitors can dab sunblock on the back of their hands and place them under a UV camera, with images showing how sunscreen blocks UV displayed on special portrait mode  screens.

Mindball™ is a biofeedback game in which two visitors, with sensors strapped around their foreheads, try to control a ping pong-sized ball on a track. The calmest player wins. Electrosonic supplied a 30-inch LCD monitor that displays both sets of brain waves; a 46-inch widescreen monitor in portrait mode provides core information about the brain.

In the See Yourself Age exhibit a camera records visitors faces and subjects them to aging software, comparing normal aging to the likely effects of exposure to the sun and bad habits such as smoking.

As Expedition Health winds down, two touchscreens and webcams enable visitors to record their own health stories. Finally, visitors reach six stations where they insert their Peak Passes and receive print outs documenting their exhibit experiences.

Behind the scenes, Electrosonic provided eco-friendly remote power units that can easily be managed by the museum’s IT staff.