Cal Martin

Connecting in our Parks

5

Posted on by

There’s a major controversy in Canada right now. No, not Mayor Rob Ford’s new crack cocaine video. No, not the bloated dead whale in Newfoundland that is a ticking timebomb of exploading gases. No, not the U.S.’s fight with Canada over who should have to claim responsibility for Justin Bieber. This controversy came to my attention when looking at the “What’s trending” box on Facebook.  It said, “Now Trending: Parks Canada”

“Parks Canada? Trending? Seriously?” I asked myself.

Yes, our government agency that manages Canada’s national parks and historic sites was suddenly in the news and all over social media. Why? Because they are looking at installing wifi hotspots at 150 locations throughout the system.

wifi parks

Now, just to be clear, there are a couple of key points to understand. We are talking about wifi hotspots – areas of a few hundred metres where people can access the internet on their devices. Just like a coffee shop. Or an airport. And, these hotspots will only be in specific locations where people gather – such as visitor centres, townsites, and some campgrounds. It will not be available across hundreds of kilometres of wilderness.

Regardless, this story has exploded, and there are very strong comments about it. Here are just a few I pulled from Twitter:

“If you wanted proof that city folk are ruining the world, they’re installing wifi in Canada’s national parks.”

“I think the fact that Parks Canada is even considering wifi in our parks shows what our society values more.”

“Wifi does not grow in parks, so wifi should not go in parks.”

Even 92-year-old author Farley Mowat chimed in with this subtle comment: “It’s a disastrous, stupid, idiotic concept and should be eliminated immediately.” Of course I responded on Twitter by saying, “Funny, I hear the same response from people his age about the internet in general.” But, I digress.

Celebrated Canadian Author Farley Mowat is 93 years old

Celebrated Canadian Author Farley Mowat is 92 years old

 

At first, I was quite taken aback by the controversy of this issue. But, after reflecting on it overnight, I can see a few reasons the issue has generated such a strong, guttural response:

Story Framing by the Media

In almost all of the media treatments I’ve seen (newspaper, television, online), the story begins somewhat like this: Imagine you are enjoying the serenity of one of Canada’s pristine national parks, when suddenly the silence is interrupted…” The media has purposely framed the story to cause conflict. They suggest that the mere presence of wifi will prevent others from enjoying the solitude and peace of nature. Well, of course people are upset. The media is inciting the public by creating a conflict where one doesn’t actually exist.

Clash of symbols

The public outcry may be a result of the personal symbolism of national parks. Many people see national parks as pristine wilderness – small islands of purity that have to withstand the constant onslaught of human presence and activity. They naturally see this as just another modern intrusion that threatens what a park means to them. Rational or not, this is viewed as a threat to something they hold dear.

Cell phone vs. Wifi

Much of the controversy revolves around cell phone use.  And towers. Comments are flooding in about people not wanting to hear a phone ring 50 kilometres into the backcountry trip or massive cell towers on top of every mountain. Even one of the large television channels had this as the story title when reporting: “Call of the Wifi? The Government plans to erect cell towers in national parks.” This shows a real lack of understanding of the issue. Wifi and cell networks are different. There are no towers going up for a wifi hotspot, and people’s phones are not going to suddenly start ringing because they are in range of wifi.

Need to control

This is where I have a hard time understanding much of the reaction. So many people are rejecting the idea because it doesn’t fit into their opinion of how people should connect with nature. I have heard and read comments saying that if someone needs the internet, they don’t belong in parks. Parks are about disconnecting. People shouldn’t bring that stress with them. The only way to experience nature is through solitude. You get the point. I may agree with some of those feelings on a personal level, but I would never impose that on someone else. Much of the negative reaction I’ve seen shows a bizarre need to control how others connect with nature. To me, it reeks of arrogance and elitism: “The only way to experience nature is the way that I like to experience nature. If you don’t like it, stay away.”

People’s travel habits have changed. The ways that people connect and learn have changed. And, there are many groups of people that are underrepresented as visitors, that may come if their needs are addressed.

How will wifi help? Someone can check the weather to decide what activity to partake in. They can book a canoe rental or a hotel room online. They can download a Parks Canada app that they didn’t know about before arriving. They can use birding apps or plant identification apps on their smartphone or tablet. They can take photos of and report sighting of rare animals. They can let their loved ones know they arrived safely. They can post a selfie to show what an incredible time they are having in nature. They can send a digital postcard. A work-at-home parent can take their kids to a park and still check in to the office. The list is endless…

As I have said before, maybe we should be less judgemental about how people should connect with nature, and just be happy that people connect at all.

 

Lesson at the Library

7

Posted on by

Well, kids, gather round. It’s time to tell a story again.

The other day, I was visiting my friendly neighbourhood library, when I saw something of great interest.

I was standing in line, waiting to use one of the computer terminals for the library catalogue (for those of you who don’t use the library, it can be like browsing Amazon but everything is free!). The two terminals each had a computer screen, keyboard, and mouse.

It’s not often that there is a line-up, but the delay seemed to be from the presence of two children, each about 9-10 years old, at one of the terminals. I didn’t pay much attention, but instead stood, patiently waited, and looked at the wicked Tintin adventures I had already picked up (nope, I don’t have kids. I am a kid).

Seriously, you need to read Tintin.

Seriously, you need to read Tintin. Image from www.tintin.com

But, after a while, I couldn’t help watching the two children.  They seemed to be having a somewhat animated discussion. The older boy was jabbing the screen with his finger. At first, I figured he was angry that Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was checked out. But, as I listened in to their conversation, I realized they were arguing about how to use the computer. Whaaaaaat?

You see, the older boy was adamant that the computer screen was a touchscreen. He kept poking and swiping, but it wasn’t responding. “It’s frozen,” he said.  The younger boy didn’t believe it was a touchscreen, but didn’t quite know how to prove it to his friend. So, there I stood, wanting to help, but in too much shock to actually tell them the reality. The older boy would rather think that it was broken than to accept that it isn’t a touchscreen.

So, what is the moral of the story? That it is indeed possible for me to be speechless? That Breaking Dawn Part 2 is difficult to get from the library? Nope, the moral is that we often have no idea of how rapidly visitor’s expectations change – especially when it comes to technology. At our sites, we may think to ourselves, “My target audience for this program/activity/exhibit component is 9-10 year olds.” But, what was true of this target audience 5 years ago may be completely different today. Knowedge, beliefs, education, expectations – they all change. The more we understand  our audiences, the more effective we will be at meeting their expectations.

I wonder how many 10 year olds are standing in our museums or visitor centres and jabbing their fingers at screens that don’t respond?

This just in! How social media campaigns can be successful

0

Posted on by

I am often a great supporter of procrastination. Not a proactive supporter, just a passive one. In fact, I often find that the mere act of doing nothing has the unintentional effect of encouraging procrastination.

So, I was busy procrastinating from writing my latest blog post for Media Platypus. I guess I was just waiting for something to happen on its own, when – ding! – something suddenly appeared in my inbox. It was a report from Ipsos, a worldwide market research firm. But, this isn’t just any report. It is a report about social media campaigns. Bingo! Procrastination 1. Hard Work 0.

This new report (from Ipsos’ UK office) attempts to identify ways that social media campaigns can be successful. It is something that I fully intended on coming up with myself, but how about I just tell you what the report says instead?

In a nutshell, this report identifies three things you must do to be successful with your campaign:

1. Play to the strengths of each platform. They are all different. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Just because they are all grouped together under the umbrella of social media, it doesn’t mean you should take the same approach with each platform. They are all different and have different users. And, these users have different behaviour and reasons for using those platforms.

.

Social Media – as explained by the act of peeing

According to their survey of UK users, Facebook is about sharing enjoyment with friends, Twitter is about discovery and connection with like-minded individuals, and YouTube is about entertainment and relaxation (like TV). The implication? Your content for Facebook should be focused on bringing friends together, your content for Twitter should be about discovery, and your content for YouTube should entertain and inform.

2. Deliver content people want to engage with. This seems obvious, but I see a lot of examples of content that either isn’t engaging or is on the wrong platform. When surveying how people interact with brands on various platforms, Ipsos discovered that people look for promos and offers on Facebook, and news on Twitter. Linkedin was more for learning from experts.

3. Be relevant and add value.  If we want people’s time, we need to reward them for it. 45% of people that “like” a brand on Facebook subsequently unlike it. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but often it is because there is some immediate one-time reward or contest, and there isn’t enough relevant and rewarding content to continue.

If you would like to read the entire report (it isn’t very long), you can check it out here. As for me, I have some serious procrastination planned.

Visiting Through the Screen

4

Posted on by

(photo credit: BBC Nature)

(photo credit: BBC Nature)

A few years ago, I was leading a guided hike in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. The program was for a group of junior high students in a near-urban park where black bears and cougars sometimes frequent. Everything was new to these kids. It was like they had never had a moment outside their perfectly groomed yards before.

During the hike, I did notice something odd, though. Every time I stopped to show these 15 kids something neat – a bat house, skunk cabbage, or bear claw marks on a tree – out came 15 phones to snap pictures and capture video. Then they would huddle together to show each other and send photos/video to their friends. The kids were experiencing nature through their phones! At first it annoyed me. Why can’t people step away from their technology for one hour to enjoy their surroundings? But, then I realized something else. The technology was just a conduit, a go-between through which these students connect with nature. In some ways, it isn’t so different from experiencing nature through your binoculars or camera.

As interpreters, we are tasked with connecting people with “the real thing.” And, even though first-hand experiences are our ultimate goal, are they the only meaningful way that people can connect with nature (or culture/history/science/art/whatever else you interpret)?

I remember enjoying a CD-ROM I once received as a gift in the 1990s. Yes, remember CD-ROMs? Well, this one was called the “Digital Field Trip to the Rainforest,” produced by a Canadian company called Digital Frog International (named because of their clever use of technology to save frogs from biology class dissections). It was wonderful. Basically, it was a guided walk through an actual rainforest trail in Belize, Central America. Each stop had a 360 degree view of a stop along that trail. There were little pop-ups with info on plants and animals, interactive games, and puzzles. I remember feeling very connected with rainforests, even though I wasn’t actually there. If you had asked me to reach into my MC Hammer pants and pull out money to donate to rainforest conservation, I wouldn’t have hesitated.

Now that's a backpack! Google employee hiking in front of Green Gables House in PEI National Park (photo credit: The Guardian Newspaper)

Now that’s a backpack! Google employee hiking in front of Green Gables House in PEI National Park
(photo credit: The Guardian Newspaper)

Why do I bring this up? Well, flash forward 15 years to today. Google has just formed a partnership with Parks Canada to use its streetview technology in various national parks in Canada. Right now, as I type, Google employees are travelling all around the land of Anne of Green Gables – Prince Edward Island National Park. With 360 degree cameras mounted on backpacks, they are hiking various trails and visiting historic buildings. Once online, anyone with an internet connection will be able to visit many of Canada’s iconic parks from anywhere in the world.

Undoubtedly, many people will criticize this approach and say that nothing can compare with the thrill of actually visiting these places. And, they would be mostly right. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.  Connection can happen many different ways, and some people might never get to visit these wonderful places except online.

Case in point – seven years ago, I started doing short television segments about Metro Vancouver Parks.  They took a few days to plan and film, but they were very far reaching, viewed by as many as 40,000 people per airing. At the time, we debated if my time would be better spent connecting actual visitors to these places, or if I should spend some of my time doing video clips to reach a large number of people that might not ever visit. You can see me in one of these segments here (After watching “Hidden Wonders” try watching “Bats”). Well, now there is no question in my mind. People felt very attached to these video segments. We reached people who visit the parks regularly, as well as people that can’t, sometimes due to disabilities or other barriers. And, in the end, these clips received more online hits than another clip of a building demolition (bats before buildings!).

I’ve watched video clips of arctic parks and international destinations that I may never get to in my lifetime. Yet, I feel powerfully connected to them. In the end, perhaps it is not important how people connect with these places, only that they feel a connection at all.

Welcome Home, Commander Hadfield

0

Posted on by

15 years ago, I met the now famous Commander Chris Hadfield. I was creating a Space Camp at IMAX Theatre in Winnipeg in conjunction with the film, Mission to Mir. Yes, it was a neat project, but to me, it was just an excuse to legally spin kids in a “spaceball” until they vomited.

Well, Chris Hadfield was passing through town, promoting the film and the Canadian Space Agency (the agency responsible for the “Canadarm“). He was on a fast promotional tour, with very little spare time. Yet, he took the time to meet with me and film a personal message to the Space Camp participants, instructing them on their “mission.” I was pleasantly surprised that this busy astronaut made time for a group of children in Winnipeg.

Today, Chris Hadfield is a household name. Earlier this week, he returned to Earth after a four month mission as commander of the International Space Station (ISS). During his time in orbit, he amazed and inspired people from around the world.

We watched him discuss life in zeroG, including how to go to the bathroom, clip nails, and try to cry in space.

He answered questions from students through live feeds, sang songs with the Barenaked Ladies in real time, and posted some of the most beautiful images of Earth I’ve ever seen.

One of Chris Hadfield's stunning photos he tweeted from the International Space Station

One of Chris Hadfield’s stunning photos he tweeted from the International Space Station with the caption “The Greek islands, like delicate, shattered eggshell pieces.”

 

One of Commander Hadfield’s great achievements is that he demonstrated, better than anyone I can think of, the power of using interpretive techniques through social media. His videos, photos, and vivid descriptions of life on the ISS brilliantly connected people with space (and Earth), and turned on a whole generation to science. He built strong emotional and intellectual connections, related his messages to his audience, used drama and surprise to provoke us and maintain our interest, and connected everything to the higher messages, or intangibles, of the resource.

As a result, Commander Hadfield skyrocketed to social media superstardom over the last four months.  He currently has over 90,000 subscribers and 11 million views to his YouTube channel and almost one million followers on his Twitter account. In addition, the Canadian Space Agency has been posting most of the videos of Commander Hadfield, with over 25 million views on their channel. In essence, he has shown how to harness the power of social media the way an interpreter would – to connect us, inspire us, and make a difference in the world.

Before returning to Earth this week, he posted one last video – a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”  The video has since gone viral, with over 10 million views in just three days. It is a beautiful rendition, but also a fitting summary of his time in space, and a wonderful example of how he used the arts to connect people with science.

This mission to the ISS wasn’t just about station repairs and the numerous scientific experiments performed in zero gravity. This was also about connecting millions of people to the wonders of space and science, and showing the world from a new perspective.

Well done, Commander. Mission accomplished.

Connecting Interpreters Across the Kilometres

2

Posted on by

Wow, how times have changed.

I remember when I first started working as a park interpreter. All the interpreters from various parks would try to stay in touch with each other all summer. Every month, we would each type out a page of funny stories and put it in the mail. Then, one interpreter would receive them, photocopy and staple them together, and mail a copy to each one of us. Receiving the package would feel like winning the lottery, sure to snap me out of any mid-summer burnout.

In between receiving these “newsletters,” we would try to touch base by telephone. Some of us would even call up other sites and pretend to be visitors and ask questions like, “What day is your Saturday Amphitheatre program?” just to listen to our colleagues try to remain professional.

I cherished those newsletters and phone calls because they connected me to a greater community of people. And, as I sat isolated in a small log museum in the middle of nowhere, it made me proud to be an interpreter.

The tiny Whiteshell Natural History Mueum, where I spent four summers learning about life, the universe, and everything

The tiny Whiteshell Natural History Mueum, where I spent four summers learning about life, the universe, and everything (courtesy of Wikipedia).

Technology sure has changed a lot since then. Today, when we interpreters talk about technology, we often talk about it only in terms of new media for exhibit purposes. However, we are using technology in other ways as well. Technology is also something that keeps us together as a profession.

For example, Interpretation Canada (IC) finished their 4th annual online conference last fall. Interpreters thousands of kilometres from each other (oh, Paul and Phil, a kilometre is 0.6 of a mile) were transported to a virtual auditorium where we joked, compared weather, and shared resources while participating in 6 online presentations. In addition, the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) held several sessions online for their national workshop in November, and continue to have several webinars through the year. 

But now, technology is being used by the interpretive profession in yet another way. It is being used to advocate for the profession. Faced with potential cuts to personal interpretation in Manitoba’s provincial parks (including the log museum where I worked), Interpretation Canada is using the power of online petitions to influence the government before they make the cuts. In just under two weeks, over 400 people have signed the online petition, adding wonderful comments that showcase the power of interpretation. Just check out this quote from one park visitor who signed:

I grew up camping. My parents taught me a lot about being country folk, but I’m a city dweller and my children need to learn about the resources and land we live in. My youngest has autism and has many questions and the interpreter at Birds Hill Park last summer answered all his questions, had great patience, and opened my son’s eyes up about bugs. I no longer listen to him scream at the sight of a bug.

Will it make a difference in the decisions of the government? We shall see. But two things are certain: 1. Technology is allowing people from around the world to connect and let their voices be heard, and 2. Interpretation as a profession is stronger because of it.

So, my dear platypus friends, add your voice to the petition here (people from around the world are signing) and know that technology helps make our profession stronger.

A Perfect Tweet

2

Posted on by

I’m not a fan of the SuperBowl. No, it’s not because I’m Canadian. I just figure that any show where the majority of the viewers are watching mostly for the commercials has real problems. That being said, something very exciting happened. And, I’m not talking about the power outage. I’m talking about what happened as a result of the power outage.

Oreo did what most companies are unable to do. They sent out a perfect tweet. Why was it perfect? It was immediate, timely, relevant, and very witty. Take a look:

Oreo tweet

The response to this tweet has been tremendous. It has been retweeted thousands of times, and is still all over the media. While other companies spent millions of dollars for ad space, Oreo arguably received the greatest amount of publicity – for free. Why? Because it was clever, and was done in the moment.

You see, Twitter was designed to be immediate. People are supposed to tweet in real time – what they are doing, where they are, and what their thoughts are. Millions of companies try to harness the power of Twitter for their advertising ambitions, but they mostly fail because of their lengthy internal approval processes and their lack of immediacy.  Successful attempts at this kind of marketing is referred to as “Real Time Marketing.”

In order to be successful with this type of marketing, your organization needs to be willing to let you respond to events immediately, and it also has to be willing to take risks. Oreo did both these things. They authorized a marketing firm to send tweets that are edgy and free of the regular approvals. As a result, Oreo is really the big winner in this year’s SuperBowl. A perfect treat with a perfect tweet (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t write slogans).

Keeping Comments in Your Sights (I mean “Sites”)

17

Posted on by

 

Who knew that Big Bird would become a major campaign issue? (image from www.mashable.com)

 

The internet is ablaze, my friends. Who knew that the mere mention of Big Bird, binders full of women, and now bayonets during the U.S. presidential debates would stimulate such heated discussion? As a Canadian, I’m a little jealous. Even our top Canadian comedians sent to the United States to subversively work for U.S. network television couldn’t make this stuff up.

Clearly, these statements are having an impact. Related blogs are filling the internet with record numbers of comments, the media is frothing at the mouth, and even Big Bird is tweeting.

I could only dream of having this level of discussion after one of my posts. But, instead, after I write a post and publish it, I sit back and wait for throngs of people to quickly comment on my brilliance. But, nothing happens. Well, that’s not true. Paul normally writes something within a day or two.

So, I had to think long and hard. I pondered. I stood outside in the rain and looked up to the sky for a sign. And then, I decided to just write down some basic tips for attracting comments to blog posts. I’m going to share these tips with you and even follow them in this post, and we’ll see if I make any progress.

How to attract comments to your posts (and how I followed my own advice in this post):

  1. Be topical. (I mentioned the U.S. Presidential debates.)
  2. Be provocative. (Notice the clever Canadian comment and hilarious fake campaign poster?)
  3. Build a community. (We are working on it – we have over 300 Facebook likes and our blog is viewed from around the world.)
  4. Respond and nurture commentators. (Try it. Comment and I’ll comment back.)
  5. Ask questions. (Phil asked a question last week and got a couple of bites. I’m about to ask one this week and, hopefully, many of you will comment.)
  6. Post at a good time. (That’s why we are now posting on Wednesdays every week!)

So, I want to ask all of you wonderful people that make up our community: What do we call our Media Platypus fans? Personally, I vote for “Platypuses.” Which poses an interesting question – are you a “platypuses” or “platypi” type of person (think of octipuses vs. Octipi)? Discuss…

 

Our fans are cute, too! (image from www.tezini.com)

The Interpreter’s Knapsack

5

Posted on by

Ten years ago, if you had been on one of my guided hikes in some stunningly beautiful Canadian park (possibly in Pukaskwa National Park or Whiteshell Provincial Park), a few things might have happened. One, you would have fallen in love with your guide – that’s a given. Two, You would have wondered how a man could look so good in brown polyester pants, since the uniform obviously had not changed since the 70s. And three, you would have noticed that I was carrying an extremely heavy backpack. It may have looked like I was ready to go on a ten-day backcountry trip, but, in reality, the backpack was filled with a library of guidebooks – birds, mammals, animal tracks, insects, you name it. If you had asked me a question that I couldn’t answer, I would have lowered my backpack to the ground with a THUMP, opened it up, and taken out one of the well worn books, filled with yellow sticky markers and hand-written notes. We would have sat for a while, while I flipped through endless pages, finally stopping on an image of a tiny, brown bird, and shown you the answer to your question.

Well, times have changed, my friends. Times have changed. Recent advances in technology have revolutionized our ability to access information, and this, in turn, has opened up a world of possibilities for heritage interpreters.

Let’s imagine that I am able the break free of the shackle to my cubicle, and that I can once again lead you on a hike (And yes, I think I still fit into those polyester pants. Hold on, ladies! This isn’t Magic Mike!). Instead of carrying a dozen guidebooks, I would carry a tablet computer instead. What’s that bird, you ask? If I couldn’t answer, I would simply open up one of the many bird ID apps, show you a picture, and play its song to the group.

This is one of many useful bird identification apps – an interpreter’s dream!

But, I wouldn’t just use the tablet to replace the multitude of identification books. Imagine that I was talking about something that happens off season – like fish spawning, for example. I could easily pull up a photo or a video to show everyone. If I was working in a zoo or Aquarium, I could show footage of animal births, or feeding time, or spectacles from the wild. If I worked in a botanical garden, I could show photos of flowers that are no longer in bloom. At a museum, I could show footage of archaeological digs, images of other parts of the world, or how artifacts were used. Heck, if I worked at an art gallery, I could show segments from that dude with the afro on public access television (Bob Ross, from the Joy of Painting). Okay, that last suggestion was just to see who’s paying attention.

There are practical applications of having a tablet outside of the office as well. If I saw something that totally stumped me, I could snap a quick picture to show others back at the office. I could even make notes, and observe or record visitor behaviour (Paul, that’s not a spelling mistake – that’s Canadian English!).

But, as always, I must issue a stern word of warning. Visitors do not come to your park, site, museum, or facility just to look at a screen. They can do that at home. They come to connect with real stuff. They come to smell the air and listen to the birds in a park, to see real treasures and artifacts in a museum, and to walk in the place of history at hictoric sites. Facilitating those real connections must be your focus as an interpreter. But, technology can and should be used to enhance those connections – to show people things that they couldn’t see or hear on their own.

So, if you have an interpreter’s knapsack, it can still be filled with props and games. But, instead of all the laminated photos cut out of magazines and numerous identification books, a tablet is essential. I would go so far as to say every interpreter should have one. The possibilities are endless.

 

Be Your Own Souvenir

0

Posted on by

This game was not only revolutionary – the wood panels also matched the station wagon!

I remember when my father brought home our first Atari Video Pinball console. This lifechanging event in my household amazed me in two ways. One, this huge lap-sized device with one large knob and five buttons the size of my childhood palm could entertain us endlessly – I mean for hours upon hours, days upon days – with its seven classic games. Two, I was amazed that my Dad was foolish enough to purchase it for my mom for Christmas. While my brothers and I excitedly fought over who would play next, my parents had a serious discussion on Christmas morning:

My Mom said through gritted teeth, “I can’t believe you only bought me this for Christmas.”

My Dad responded, “But, you said ‘Wouldn’t that be great for Christmas!'”

“I meant for the children – not for me.”

“You never specified that.”

*seething glare*

Anyway, through the years I grew up with each major advancement in computers and gaming: PacMan on our Atari computer, Lemonade on our Apple IIe, and on and on. But, I never really progressed past the joystick. To me, it was perfection – one hand on the stick, the other on the button. It worked from Donkey Kong to Pole Position to Joust. Once Nintendo came out with their stickless controller, I was lost. Well, not lost in the way our fourth writer Shea Lewis has disappeared from the virtual world, but in the way that technology seemed to get ahead of me.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and you can see how I was totally amazed with the hand-held controllers with the wii. Suddenly, people had to physically move their bodies to play, and it changed everything. It revolutionized how people interact with games. Now, people purchase games to get in shape. Say what? I know!

As if that wasn’t enough to completely blow our minds, then came the Xbox Kinect. Now, you don’t even need to hold any controller. There’s no cord connecting you to the device. You simply move your body, and it registers.

This amazing leap forward in technology will change our world in ways we don’t even realize. And, as with all new technology, there will be the usual struggles between good and evil, until those in control realize that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Thought that Kinect is only used for video games? Think again, and prepare to have your mind blown. This article describes 8 ways Kinect is used besides gaming – from controlling a quadrocopter to smart shopping carts to gesture-based Minority Report style computer interactions.

But, the most useful and mind-blowing to me is a little art installation in Barcelona in 2011, called “Be Your Own Souvenir.” Barcelona based blablabLAB created the interactive installation using 3 Kinect devices. In a nutshell, a person plugs a dollar into a machine, then stikes a pose. The three Kinect devices create a 360 degree 3D image of the person and sends it to a 3D printer known as a RepRap. Within minutes, the machine creates an “toy army soldier” version of the person. And, voila! The person has their very own souvenir of themselves. Here are some photos of the process:

Strike a Pose!

Creating the Souvenir

Voila! Memorable Experience and Souvenir!

The trick is to find a way to use this technology in a way where it isn’t just a novelty, but rather a way to meaningfully connect people with places and resources. Art galleries? Museums? Nature Centres? Can you think of a way to apply this at your site? If you can, then I’ll come and visit and take home an incredible souvenir of.. me!!

1 2