Part of a long-term Heinz History Center exhibition, the Westinghouse interactive lets visitors have a virtual conversation with famous Pittsburgh inventor George Westinghouse. Museum-goers stand across from a forced-perspective digital projection of Westinghouse, interacting over a physical desk with built-in touch screen where they can page through digitally-scanned copies of his actual letters, photos, patents, and other documents. As visitors explore they can ask Westinghouse any of more than 200 questions about his many achievements, from his invention of the air brake to his rivalry with Thomas Edison in the “War of the Electrical Currents.”
I teamed up with four other Carnegie Mellon University graduate students to design and produce this digital interactive for our client the Heinz History Center. We hired an actor, filmed hours of video content and—using the Entertainment Technology Center’s Synthetic Interview technology—created a multimedia interface connecting this footage of Westinghouse’s personal stories with the Heinz History Center’s historical photos and artifacts. The Heinz History Center fabricated the physical installation and launched our synthetic interview as part of “Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation” in November 2008.
As lead designer, I pitched three initial concepts for the exhibit and spearheaded materials research and prototyping for multiple methods of integrating our digital content with the physical installation (including rear projection, short- and ultra short-throw projection, Pepper’s ghost effects, and forced-perspective sets). Once the overall design was finalized, I developed our touch-screen-based graphical user interface through multiple iterations, conducting iterative usability testing with mockups and prototypes. I used Photoshop to integrate scanned images provided by the Heinz History Center with my own custom photographs of their physical artifacts and original/free stock art assets. In Flash, I worked with our engineer to put together the UI layout, populated it with images and text, and created animated transitions for all desktop items. I also created our documentation and hardware specifications for hand-off.