Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Attractions Toolkit - Sensory Overhaul

Welcome to the first issue of Attractions Toolkit, where we select one of the pavilion's existing attraction and list a few possible addons, subtractions or even replacement options to attract the next generation. This would tie in with the Potential WoL Resurrection ideas sections covered in Operation: Imagineer on this blog.

Here we look back at the playground of the senses in which we faithfully know as the Sensory Funhouse. While we know that the five senses are the primary tools of exploring the world around us, bear in mind that the sensory playground has practically become a part of every competing science museum's attraction belt (well, make that a selection of those in which would soon be covered in the Footsteps section of the blog).
To be honest, compared to a given handful of state-of-the-art technological attractions that once were the superiority of areas outside Epcot's border, it appears that the Sensory Funhouse has had a crisis of attempting to catch up. Some of the critics would have seen Sensory Funhouse as, by current standards, comparable to what other science museums have on offer (plus not to mention how it would have trodden on the pawprints of the original ImageWorks upstairs playground once existent in days gone by).

And also by current knowledge, it is no doubt that all parts of the Sensory Funhouse are uprooted and buried from public view, but thanks to a vast array of photographs capturing parts and highlights of the exhibit, it would prove helpful to explain what you'd find in the exhibit:
  • Touchy Subjects - a gallery of physical objects (including an interactive guessing game on selecting the right object without peeking)
  • Perplexion Pipes/Curious Coils - a thermo-interactive exhibit famed for its warm-to-cold temperatures of the pipes. (Remember, after handling both pipes, when you handled the pipe in the middle?)
  • Audio Antics - binaural auditory guessing games, delivered to you by your headphones.
  • Optical Illusions (name says it all)
  • Crooked/Illusion Room - or commonly known as the Ames room exhibit, this played around with your perspective - the further occupants went into the room, the smaller they appeared, yet the room appears to stay the same.
(more information and photos present on LOST "Sensory Funhouse" gallery)

Sure most of them are long gone, but suppose that it was possible to bring this kind of exhibit back, it would require an extensive overhaul to literally bring it back into speed, but this would mean taking advantage of any aesthetics, topics and even technological elements to further the experience. This means looking over the highlights of the past Sensory Funhouse, and even going as far as figuring out the missing gaps of what it might possibly have, after the jump...

Optical Illusions

With regards to optical illusions, it is almost so commonplace nowadays that is is actually hard to make it unique within Wonder's borders by now. However, if by any chance an optical illusion section be retained for an exhibit in this type, perhaps it would be a great idea to consider multiple sections to help categorise into bite sized pieces.
  1. The rotating discs, which contain an array of linear patterns, would be one of the fully interactive features of the optical illusions. Sure, the 'glasses' layout and irregularly-aligned towers don't really do the layout justice, so let's assume we place them near the entrance of the optical illusions gallery. 
  2. The stationary print optical illusions, such as the image below, would be encased in picture frames (in my mind, actual frames rather than the faux painted-on kind), and would be interactive, rotating from one image to another, depending on user presence.
  3. The three dimensional zoetrope would be a rather interesting addition to this section of the exhibit; sure it would need some maintenance, or even may need some replacement, but given that the zoetrope fits into the category of optical illusions, it could prove an interesting addition to the optical illusions gallery. Here's a short clip of the three dimensional zoetrope, and with it, a little explanation on how it works, as seen in DCA:
  4. Video gallery of common motion-related illusions. Say, a media clip would play, demonstrating an illusion (or some visual situation), and then the user is given a handful of questions about what is happening. Perhaps the interactivity element could be extended to 'test games' (for instance, colour spectrum dependent find-an-object activities). We have touch screen interfaces, yes, but the graphics could do with an update, or believably even some variety. Also, some videoclips of surprising illusions, like this one below, might show up as screensavers...
Perhaps the optical side of the attraction would deserve a few retouches and additions, as well as a few modifications to the theme to better suit part of the attraction - in fact, perhaps even a little section or area of carpet might be sufficient to somewhat set the mood for the section:

This image found on a site of interest - Mighty Optical Illusions:   
Now that you have taken the time to peruse over the visual potential of the optical illusions section, it is time to move on and use our ears for once...

Auditory Illusions

While the 'guess the sound' exhibit concept has seen better days (if anyone has listened to the Audio Antics clip from your online radio station, or even braved yourself and been on 'Sounds Dangerous'), it seems an auditory component for the exhibit appears mandatory, at least by exhibit standards.

Okay, the headphones design may as well be considered kitschy by todays standards, so we'll ned to take it one step forward; it would take in the form of a series of booths, which hopefully would allow room for a 4-person family. Eliminating the headphones in some places, this would mean a headache less for maintenance, and if the booths be accepted, this could mean an opportunity to use innovative sound technologies to authenticate the experience.

A small interactive exhibit on hearing ranges (especially amongst animals) will accompany as well. This also spells the opportunity to consider the use of tonal illusions, as accessible on the University of British Columbia's student page on a List of Illusions (Auditory Section)

Tactile Illusions

The touch illusions were a staple part of the exhibit, and one of them was the temperature coils and pipes - ranging from freezing to hot, in which one touched the lukewarm one in the middle after handling the other two, resulting in utmost confusion.

While the touch illusions have been a staple, I recall being into a few optical illusions exhibits in my area, so I know the drill. Perhaps the braille exhibit could come up with variable quotes, which change at given intervals. Perhaps the tactile guessing games can stay, with interchangable objects at given intervals, and different textures as well.

Another tactile illusion also involves one little prop that could raise eyebrows - the phantom limb. Okay, so nobody gets hurt in this exhibit, but it gives guest a fright somewhat. Say for instance, we're using a rubber arm for the experience. Yes, both arms will be tapped at the same time. And then you appear to receive a whack from a hammer (but you don't get hurt). Yawn. But while most phantom limb experiments rely on something as common as a hammer, perhaps some added variety, such an audio-animatronic dog head to go for the hand (without warming), could astound for a different visual, yet achieve the same effect.

And that's it for the first part of Attractions Toolkit, and if you have any queries with these ideas (will they work? Will they fail?) or would like to tell me your take on the Sensory Funhouse section, drop me a line in the comments section and I'll get back to you shortly. Please note that Operation Imagineer will be back shortly during the course of the blog updates, but rest assured, the Attractions Toolkit will tie in to this section. Sketches of the aforemented ideas will appear in the Operation Imagineer section.

Until next time!

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