Now that you're survived to spring break, where are you going? Disney World! The first half of the semester might not be the Super Bowl, but I did visit Innoventions, a exhibition space at Epcot. Inside Innoventions, Disney builds (often interactive) exhibitions related to technological advancements in partnership with corporate sponsors who depict their application in everyday life.
I'm not going to discuss the space in general, which has exhibits from IBM, Raytheon, Underwriters Laboratories, Velcro and others. One new exhibition, Habit Heroes, presented by Florida Blue Cross is an interesting example for class because the exhibition was closed after overwhelmingly negative reviews regarding the 'portrayal of overweight kids', and completely reworked, only to be reopened in January.
An important note: as I was doing additional research, I discovered that the guest flow was completely rearranged in the space, which explains some of the feelings I had as I reviewed the experience.
The concept of Habit Heroes is to highlight the importance of healthy habits, obviously something Florida Blue Cross has a vested interest in communicating. The exhibition is a combination of three different interactive experiences and is directed. I found the entrance to a bit odd, a cast member stood in a small area in front of automatic doors and introduced the experience and that we were selected as agents to help. We were ushered into a large cavernous room that was darkly lit with a large projection and spotlights on standing areas.
In this space, in conjunction with a video projection, visitors are educated how we are all at risk of three health villains, blocker-bots which hide healthy food choices, sappers who prevent people from exercises and scorchers who dehydrate people. This introduction, critical to understanding what the entire experience is about, felt a bit heavy handed and basic as an adult. However, I suppose you could argue that these basic concepts are the baseline for a discussion about healthy habits.
Using Kinect tracking, you are judged on your ability to make the physical gestures which fight off each villain. The interaction is very physical, clearly intentionally. Next, we were moved to a different room with a long seamless projection on both walls. We spent time fighting off a city being attacked by the villains by shooting them with cannons. There was not significant additional learning information provided at this point.
Finally visitors are moved to a large cylindrical room and fight off the same villains again using a different entry method. Honestly, I was a bit bored at this point. Again, I suppose I'm not the target audience, as most people were running around with their children, tapping RFID cards to save the city from the villains.
Finally, we were ushered into a briefing room, where a projection and cast member recounted our performance and reiterated the challenge of fighting these villains. One of the more interesting elements of this exhibition, was the invitation to continue your 'mission' by choosing one of the villains to fight. Visitors were provided an arm band and pamphlet with directions about what to do at Epcot to keep fighting and instructions for downloading a companion app. The effort to continue the experience, even after you left the exhibition tied well into the goal of improving healthy habits.
However, I can't say I learned much directly from the exhibition. I know what the villains are, but there wasn't significant exploration or education about you can do to fight these habits in real life. Perhaps the exhibit functions just as a starting point, a way to introduce discussion of the topic of healthy habits? As I explored more of the information online, there is a great collection of additional content, but I'm uncertain how much of that is accessed by visitors after they leave.
It's kind of a shame if people don't discover the additional content, it makes the exhibit experience is more meaningful.
There are significant challenges in presenting complex topics to a theme park audience, let alone with visitors of many different age groups. I learned that the guest flow through this exhibition was reversed for the new version. I think that is why I felt that the space was oddly set up. It seemed like we were just thrown right into the madness, a pretty unwelcoming dark room rather than the more traditional introduction space where the exhibition currently ends.
Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to experience the original exhibition, I wish that I had. From what I've learned online, it seems like it was harder hitting, which considering the obesity epidemic in the United States, is logical. I can't say for sure, but it seems like the environment in which the experience is presented (a theme park) might not have prepared visitors for the directness of the experience.