Students create interactive display in use at MSU Museum

Posted on: July 26, 2011

MSU students from a variety of majors worked together to create an interactive touchscreen display that is now in use at the MSU Museum, the Smithsonian-affiliated museum on campus.

Over the past year, MSU students in from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Music, Department of Theatre, and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities created the multimedia display from start to finish as part of MASK: Secrets and Revelations in a theatre class at MSU. MASK is the MSU Museum’s largest international and multimedia exhibit ever and is on display until Jan. 22. Read more about the MASK exhibit from MSU News.

The MSU Museum was eager to incorporate interactive technology for the exhibit and was impressed to find the expertise in the form of a student-driven project, said MSU Museum Director Gary Morgan. 

"Masks are, after all, meant to be worn," said Morgan, who also curated the exhibit. "We knew we wanted an interactive way for the visitors to wear masks, while keeping the actual artifacts protected. What Alison Dobbins and the MSU students came up with is a very engaging presentation and that it extended the learning experience for MSU students was another bonus. Our visitors are excited to be able to wear the masks and it's a popular part of the exhibit package," he added. 

This touchscreen allows visitors of the exhibit to "try on" the masks. Users can wear a virtual mask, make a mask online, and look through a mask – all with the display. 
The “Wear a Mask” feature allows the viewer to click on each mask. Once the mask is selected, it will appear on the viewer through the face recognition display. This feature also shows the history of each mask that the viewer tries on. 

The “Make a Mask” feature divides each mask into three parts horizontally, and allows the viewer to select different thirds from the assortment of masks until they have created their own masterpiece, which they then can try on. 

In the “Look through a Mask” feature, the viewer can select one of three masks; a welder’s mask, the Phantom of the Opera mask, or a Spartan football helmet. Once their chosen mask is selected they get to see real footage through the eyes of that mask. For example, when selecting the Spartan football helmet, they are virtually taken to the Spartan Stadium and appear to be on the field with the players and Coach Dantonio. 

“Students from the College of Communication Arts & Sciences provided key skills that were helpful during the project," said Alison Dobbins, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre who taught the courses. 

“The Communication Arts & Sciences students had a huge impact on the project,” Dobbins said. “The talents of the students complemented each other. The dynamics between those in the performance arts and those in the media arts was fascinating to watch.” 

In the fall semester, students had the task to brainstorm and present ways to make the exhibit interactive. At the end of the semester these students created the prototypes of their designs. 

Annie Scaramuzzino, a media arts and technology senior, helped research which content to use as well as shoot and edit the video. She specifically worked on capturing the footage for the Phantom of the Opera mask and Spartan football helmet for the “Look through a Mask” portion of the project. 

Scaramuzzino said, “There was so much that went into the exhibit with all of the interactive media that we incorporated. We used graphic design, photography, video, computer programming, and other media to make the MASK Exhibit a unique one.” 
“It was really cool to be a part of a group of students from all different majors, each contributing a certain talent to create what became the MASK Exhibit. It was a project that I truly enjoyed and felt very lucky to be a part of,” Scaramuzzino says. 

In the spring semester, media arts and technology senior Ryan Ward was the programmer for the mask kiosk. “Being a part of the project was a great experience. I quickly found I was acting as the project lead, making sure we were all meeting our deadlines and doing our part to produce for our project milestones.” 

“In the end, I was really happy with the final product and the fact that we were always at least two days ahead of our milestones,” said Ward. 

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