Sometimes when you’re in a museum or an art gallery, you get bored of looking at exhibits or portraits or other still artefacts. You want to use your hands and touch something. Preferably something that interacts with you and responds to what you do. And this is where exploratory walk-up interactions come in. They’re basically things designed to suit this very purpose.
Designing walk-up interactions is a different ball game from simple games, which I talked about in a previous entry. There are 4 questions you should think about to ensure it is a success.
1. What is its state upon arrival and departure?
Walk-up interactions are by definition meant for people to walk up to them at anytime and leave at anytime too. This means that whenever players leave the interaction, the next person must be able to continue from where it left off. They cannot wait for it to reload, or even have to manually reload the thing before they can enjoy the game. They also cannot be forced to play the entire game in order to get a reward at the end.
2. What is the duration of interest?
It’s generally impractical to make the duration too long, or else you’ll get crowds blocking the way all clamouring to play over and over again. 30 seconds is generally the norm, as it is the average time people stay at any one exhibit in a museum or art gallery anyway.
3. Does it run forever?
It is supposed to.
4. Does it need instructions?
Preferably no instructions are needed, so you should make use of people’s intuitive reactions. Let the structure start just by having people press randomly or at the most attention-catching part. Let them be able to see the results immediately so they understand the relationship between their actions and effects, and know what is going on.
Are you not convinced that walk-up interactions can ever be fun? Well, here’re some examples that entertain an audience, and take less than a minute to appreciate!
Some of these interactions don’t fully meet the criteria set out above, but those which do are fun and surprisingly simple to grasp. And sometimes what people want is just something to de-stress, rather than an intense game that takes hours of commitment. And such fun interactions also do open our eyes to interesting insights about our environment and the possibilities of technology. Which one is your favourite?
If you were tasked to make a walk-up interaction as well, what would you like to see? I suppose one must bear in mind the context where the interaction will appear, and whether it is targeted to a particular audience demographic. Usually exhibits in museums and art galleries fill some function or fit a theme, and challenge people to think about something. Applying that to something that is also fun and engaging can be quite a challenge, but if successful, it may be the most memorable part of the exhibition. It is also a powerful way to bring a message across. Take a look at a museum or art gallery in the future, or even the Science Centre, and try to discover the interactive elements in the exhibition.