Interactive Exhibit Write-Up

The Rochester Museum and Science Center has an exhibition about lasers on the second floor, complete with multiple interactive and educational displays. These exhibitions include a string-less harp that measures the position of your hands to generate music, and a device that lets kids aim lasers at receivers to activate a radio.

On the far end of this room was an exhibit titled ‘Laser Motion,’ a mirrored box with a laser pointed towards a white sheet on the far end of the device. On the front was a series of tunable knobs that controlled a collection of mirrors and mechanical parts that interfered with the direction of the laser. By manipulating some of these knobs, the point of the laser would adjust its rotation, and the user could have enough control to create any number of shapes.

The ‘Laser Motion’ is intended to communicate an interest in how lasers can be used for design to kids, as well as specifically how they are affected by different interferences. It is effective partly because whoever is interacting with the device is able to experiment with multiple kinds of interference, such as rotating mirrors, ripple disks which generate noise in the system, and diffraction grates which split the beam into multiple points.

The interaction made simple and effective use of knobs and buttons to manipulate the laser, although it wasn’t terribly cohesive since three of the input mechanisms were knobs, while the two others were buttons. Also, the three knobs aren’t labeled, requiring that the user closely examine the mechanisms in front to gain a sense of what they do. However, these knobs and buttons were easy to use and not cumbersome in any way. And most of everyone is able to recognize their purposes after a bit of use.

There wasn’t any interaction feedback with this device, outside of the direct manipulation of the laser point on the end of it. When knobs are turned and buttons are pressed, they do their jobs in a straightforward manner without interest or flourish. At the same time, this whole setup was somewhat reminiscent of an arcade console, with the buttons placed on a panel to be used while standing in front, so in that way it is a bit game-like.

Interaction could definitely be improved greatly, perhaps when the knobs and buttons are adjusted, over the top laser sound effects could play to be more engaging for kids. Also the mirrors that the user adjusts are tucked away in the front right corner of this device, and if they were in a more noticeable location that interaction would be significantly more satisfying. As well, if there were a greater variety of ways to interact with the laser, the user would have a chance to learn first hand about the qualities of laser-beams.

 

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