Queensland’s University of Technology (QUT) is giving visitors to its learning space, The Cube, a sense of life in prehistoric times.
The Cube is currently playing host to an interactive dinosaur zoo, and uses the latest developments in video game technology, AI and sensors to provide an immersive experience for its guests.
Using the latest findings in palaeontological research, a team of video game developers, led by Cube Studio manager Sean Druitt has brought 10 iconic creatures to life, and is the first exhibit of its kind anywhere in the world.
The dinosaurs have been programmed with a level of artificial intelligence that allows them to interact with the virtual world they inhabit, as well as react to visitor movements via laser sensors that run along the exhibit floor, together with touch screens on the walls.
This gives the dinosaurs the ability to ‘see’ the visitors and interact with them.
“We wanted to give the impression that the dinosaurs were aware of a human’s presence in the space before even interacting with the touch screens,” Druitt told IoT Hub.
“In collaboration with the ViseR R&D team within the Institute of Future Environments at QUT, we set about investigating what could be created to meet the needs of the design.
“The end result is a grid of industrial infra-red laser to cast across the floor, and where the user intersects this grid, the dinosaurs are told where the target is located.”
Druitt said that the team went one step further and implemented an algorithm that could estimate a visitor’s height, based on their stride length.
“We programmed the dinosaurs to utilise this information in a few neat ways, and the predators in particular use this to look at potential prey as they move through the space, with some of the species specifically targeting children as a result,” he added.
Taking 10 months to develop the software, the team also developed on-screen interactive activities, ranging from fossil digs to dropping an asteroid on the planet to learn about mass extinctions.
Druitt said the biggest challenge was incorporating current knowledge about the dinosaurs’ lives into the exhibition.
“Being an educational institution, we were unable to take creative liberties and make our own assumptions to just build entertainment,” he said.
“Instead, we engaged the services of Dr. Scott Hocknull from the Queensland Museum to be our technical advisor on the dinosaurs’ movement, interaction, eating, resting, hunting, communication, and to help educate us on the time of the dinosaurs and the world in which they lived.
“A lot of our representations of the dinosaurs have never been done to this level before and one of our species, Australoventor Wintonensis, was actually discovered and classified by Dr. Hocknull, which was a great experience for him to see his old mate start to move around and interact.”
The purpose of the exhibit is more than just entertainment. All content hosted in The Cube is aligned to the national science curriculum, and a STEM Teacher in Residence was engaged during the project’s development to assist with the creation of facilitated workshops, so students could learn about different principles, such as geology and species evolution.
“We were able to launch with 15 associated classroom workshops where classes from Year 4 to Year 12 can utilise the onscreen content as the backbone of in-class learning,” Druitt said.
“We are really bringing textbooks to life on The Cube in a fun and engaging way.”
Druitt said that such technologies could promote an increase in immersive and interactive learning experiences for all ages.
“We have witnessed countless times that the younger generation automatically understand touch technology, and if the content is engaging enough then they will spend time at the coal face learning through engagement,” he noted.
Although the development team have a few ideas for more interactive displays, Druitt said their focus is to “help address the concern about the need for a lot more software programmers in the near future.”
The exhibition is scheduled to run every day from 10am - 4pm until the 27th of January.