by Hugh McDonald, Executive Producer January 19th, 2019
In early 2018, XPRIZE selected Ideum to design and build an engaging interactive digital exhibit to demonstrate emerging medical technologies. Ideum accepted the challenge, and after months of interface design, hardware and software development, and user testing (including a daylong evaluation session at Albuquerque’s own Explora Science Center), high-tech exhibits are debuting at science centers on both coasts, at no additional cost to participating museums.
The idea for the exhibit was inspired by the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition, awarded in 2017, in which teams developed feasible medical “tricorders” like those used in the Star Trek television series. In the series, the tricorder was a handheld scanner that quickly gave Starfleet doctors clues about a patient’s illness or injury. At the time, the tricorder was nearly as fanciful as the warp engines of the Starship Enterprise.
Today, advances in processing power and imaging technologies are making it possible to diagnose more serious illnesses in non-invasive ways, an ability particularly important for rural communities far from doctors or hospitals. That realization led to the XPRIZE competition’s goal of sparking interest and innovation in medical technology—and ultimately to this exhibit, which is now prompting experimentation and discovery around the Country.
The exhibit runs on a 65” Ideum Platform multitouch table. The experience includes three modules that engage visitors in different ways of learning about medical technology. In the first module, “Scan Yourself,” visitors use fingertip sensors to track their heart rate, skin temperature, and galvanic skin response. The second module, “Build a Medical Scanner,” invites visitors to design their own 3D diagnostic device to focus on specific health scenarios. At the last module, “Diagnosis,” two visitors become collaborating physicians to examine a patient with a mystery illness.
These scenarios were designed to allow visitors to experience the excitement of interactive medical diagnosis technology. The activities facilitate social interaction, spur investigation of careers in technology and health sciences, and prompt experimentation with critical thinking and hypothesis testing. And now, visitors at five U.S. museums—Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ; the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego; the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose; the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland; and Seattle’s Pacific Science Center—can dive into them to explore the world of emerging medical technology.
The exhibit’s innovative and highly social interface is complemented by the table’s custom hardware. Ideum designed and engineered a special Arduino-driven panel to run the dedicated fingertip sensors for Scan Yourself. Embedded in the table’s casing and base are LED strips with adjustable lighting, adding to the futuristic allure of the table’s onscreen diagnostic windows.
The exhibit’s location at a range of science centers provides a unique opportunity to assess engagement and learning using the same experience at different venues.