Wonder-LAND: mixed reality book system for explorative learning

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Abstract

Every child is born a scientist, with curiosity to explore the environment through experimentation. However, in practice, education still focuses on merely transmitting facts, partly because we lack powerful tools to facilitate the exploration. The goal of this project is to design an accessible and imaginative toolkit to help kids develop scientific mindset and practice by discovering, experimenting and sense-making on their own through playing.
Wonder-LAND is a mixed reality book system that empowers kids to discover the unseen and experiment the impossible through metaphorical tools and simulations. The system combines AR/VR technology with various traditional paper-based mechanisms, which enables kids to directly interact with tangible elements to experiment scientific phenomena in 3D space.

Inspiration and Method

My intent for WonderLAND is designing a learning toolkit that is meaningful for children, with interactions that are novel, functional and accessible. To achieve that, I experimented with integrating two opposite design approaches, the User-Centered Design (UCD) paradigm, which generates concepts upon insights from users; and the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) paradigm, which explores interactions via technology research and functioning demos.
I planned three UCD stages: six observation trips on how kids relate to ‘learning through playing’, four stakeholder workshops to generate promising teaching tactics, and my own ideation of three holistic experiences to pinpoint design opportunities: ‘Discover the Unseen’, ‘Experiment the Impossible’ and ‘Experience the Story’.
In HCI research, I focused on combining AR with paper-based mechanisms and experimented with five different categories of mechanisms. Then I developed nine demos using the Unity3D game engine to demonstrate how various interactions can enable new opportunities. After testing with users, I generate the system architecture which can open up endless applications for learning through play.

Result

Wonder-LAND is mixed-reality book system that simulates a safe and imaginative world for kids to develop scientific mindset and practice through playing. It is designed to empower kids to discover the unseen with metaphorical tools and experiment the world in impossible scales of time and space to form their own thoughts without fear. Throughout the book, they will be taken on a journey by a virtual companion who interacts with them dynamics, asks obvious questions and suggests observation and experiments.
Wonder-LAND integrates AR/VR with various mechanisms from traditional paper-based mediums, including pop-up books, cut-out panel toys, movable cards and origami. It allows kids to directly interact with the tangible objects to control different parameters, and use metaphorical tools and physical movement in 3D space to reveal hidden phenomenon.
The final result consists of a system architecture, functional prototypes of different interactions mechanisms and multiple examples of possible experience applications.