First-hand, immersive full-body experiences with living cells through interactive museum exhibits

A museum exhibit that enables direct full-body interactions with living microbes immerses human visitors into the microscopic world and could inform the design of future educational life-science technologies.

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Fig. 1: The immersive museum exhibit Human-Microbe-Interactive (HMI-Dance) enables full-body interactions between visitors and living microbes.
Fig. 2: Three exhibits were developed for a comparative user study.
Fig. 3: The three exhibits showed differences in their resulting visitor engagement.

Change history

  • 24 October 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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The authors thank the Riedel-Kruse laboratory, N. Cira and R. Taylor for general help, and the Exploratorium staff, K. Boyd, R. Cushing, L. Humphreys, A. Knauft, M. Kroning, R. Soleto and P. Taylor for supporting the installation, user studies and data collection. This work was funded by NSF grant 1612831 and in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. All user studies were done according to IRB 00007807 at the Exploratorium.

Author information

Project idea: I.H.R.-K, S.A.L., J.M., K.Y.; manuscript preparation: A.L., J.M., I.H.R.-K; hardware: A.L., S.A.L., A.W.; software: A.L., SA.L., C.B.; installation: A.L., C.B.; user study design: J.M.; data analysis oversight: J.M.

Correspondence to Ingmar H. Riedel-Kruse.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Tables 1–11 and Fig. 1

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Users of HMI-Dance at the Exploratorium catching cells. The visitor silhouettes are captured in real-time and projected as light into the microbial world where their silhouettes can interact with Euglena cells. The top panel shows the view on the large screen on which the visitor silhouettes and cells can be seen. The smaller inset on the bottom shows the visitors. Voices and images are modified to preserve anonymity. To generate the top panel, the projection is recorded via a display duplicator. The resulting image is then rectified through software to approximately represent how the actual display would appear to a visitor (compare to Supplementary Fig. 1).

Transcript of the user dialog:

[0:00] Visitor 1: Catch one. [O.]K.

[0:02] Visitor 2: I don’t wanna catch one.

[0:03] Visitor 1: How am I supposed to catch one?

[0:06] Visitor 1: (Laughs)

[0:12] Visitor 1: How do we catch one?

[0:16] Visitor 1: I’m not tall enough.

[0:23] Visitor 1: I caught one!

[0:25] Visitor 1: Oh – I let it escape.

[0:30] Visitor 1: We’re supposed to make like a circular form.

[0:35] Visitor 2: What game are we playing?

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Lam, A.T., Ma, J., Barr, C. et al. First-hand, immersive full-body experiences with living cells through interactive museum exhibits. Nat Biotechnol 37, 1238–1241 (2019).

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