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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

WaterWorx- In-gallery ipad experience

Institution: 

The Powerhouse Museum

Designer: 

Powerhouse Museum, Digital Eskimo, Bonobo Labs

Category: 

Innovative | Experimental

Why

WaterWorx at the Powerhouse Museum: Children playing WaterWorx in-galllery ipad game

WaterWorx is an ipad game that aims to teach children and adults about the challenges associated with managing Sydney’s water supply system. The game is deployed on 8 ipads (which sit on a custom designed table) in the 'Ecologic' Exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum.

Screen shot of WaterWorx ipad game, Powerhouse Museum

WaterWorx ipad installation at the Powerhouse Museum: Children playing WaterWorx in-galllery ipad game

The whole experience is an experiment for the Museum in using consumer technologies as interfaces, allowing the team to refocus both on visitor attention and use development resources on content and engagement – not display technologies.

The process by which this game was developed was in itself very different from the traditional process of creating museum 'interactives'. WaterWorx was developed by Sydney digital design agency Digital Eskimo together with team from the Powerhouse’s curatorial and web teams, and programmed by iOS developer Bonobo Labs. Rather than an explicit and ‘completed’ brief be given to Digital Eskimo, the game was developed using an iterative and agile methodology, begun by a process that they call ‘considered design‘. This brought together stakeholders and potential users all the way through the development process with ‘real working prototypes’ being delivered along the way.

WaterWorx screenshot, Powerhouse Museum: end game screenshot for WaterWorx

The ipad installation has proven to be a huge success, not only having a 'honey pot' effect, but actually impacting on what messages children are taking away from the exhibition. Feedback from teachers has been overwhelming, on Sydney teacher stated: “… the Water Worx game made (the kids) realise how hard it is to manage the water supply – mission accomplished! It was a big favourite.

Being specifically designed as an in-gallery experience, WaterWorx is not yet available in the App Store. You can see a video of the game play here.

(MW2011 Judges are welcome to contact us and provide their IMEI numbers to obtain a copy of the WaterWorx game)