Augmented Reality and Animation: Cosmically Engaging Museum Visitors at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center

Argis Solutions collaborates with Worker Studio to bring the Space Foundation’s interactive augmented reality character to life for education and engagement at the Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

By Alyssa Grant

Recognizing the engaging power of augmented reality (AR) and its value as an educational tool, the Space Foundation enlisted animation company Worker Studio and augmented reality experts Argis Solutions to develop an exciting educational tool for the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center. Worker Studio crafted the transmedia edutainment character, astronaut Eugene “Cosmo” Nutt, and Argis Solutions created the AR platform that brings Cosmo alive in app form so that he can interact with his audience in three-dimensional settings.

Cosmo had his augmented reality debut April 8-11 at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the annual gathering of space professionals sponsored by the Space Foundation. His mission at the Space Symposium was to host a prototype for a planned multimedia exhibit at the Discovery Center and demonstrate how AR can foster deeper educational engagement when paired with traditional museum exhibits. In the future, educators at the Space Foundation hope to use him in app-based learning, augmented reality, short films, virtual classrooms, and even as an animated talk show host that guests and audiences can interact with in real time. 

Worker Studio’s cosmically delightful character Cosmo has been in development for years. His AR capabilities were brought to life by merging Maya, a computer animation and modeling software, with Unity, a 3D game development platform. Chris Anderson, Vice President of Augmented Reality at Argis Solutions, said, “One of the hardest things to do is create amazing movie quality graphics and animations while keeping in mind the limited capabilities on mobile devices. With the new features of Unity 3D, and the always increasing power of phones and tablets, it is now becoming a reality.” These technological advancements give authenticity to the real-world interactions Cosmo has with his audience, fostering deeper engagement.

Speaking about the collaboration between Worker Studio and Argis, Anderson remarked, “It was an amazing opportunity to get to partner with animators who have worked on blockbuster movies and bring their creations to life through AR.” The feeling is mutual. 

Reflecting on the project, Jason Cangialosi, Partner and Minister of Propaganda at Worker Studio, added, “Working with the team at Argis opened up a new universe of possibilities in augmented reality. I see it like they helped us build the rocket that got Cosmo on the Moon, and now we’re ready to go to Mars!”

The Space Foundation isn’t alone in appreciating the benefits of AR. Increasingly, museums across the globe are finding creative ways to merge AR with their exhibits. In the spirit of Pokemon Go, the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibit The Story of a Forest allowed visitors to search and capture flora and fauna that were found in the exhibit’s botanical drawings. Jennifer Billock writing for Smithsonian.com notes, “With augmented reality, museums are superimposing the virtual world right over what’s actually in front of you, bringing exhibits and artifacts to life in new ways.” The interactive nature of AR combined with the flexibility of mobile devices allows museums to draw visitors from their living room to the exhibit or experience parts of the exhibit from the comfort of their living room. Younger generations, with their deeply digitalized childhoods, could also find more meaningful engagement when AR is merged with museum exhibits.

One of the next missions on the horizon for Cosmo is to connect with Space Foundation visitors at the upcoming Space in Our State exhibit this fall. Colorado is a national leader in school and business contribution to the advancement of space exploration. Space in Our State will allow visitors to bring Colorado to life as they learn about our state’s important role in helping space programs achieve lift-off. Interested in becoming a sponsor of this landmark exhibit?  Want to get behind something that demonstrates the importance of space exploration to communities throughout Colorado? Visit www.spacefoundation.org/donate to contribute to this exciting mission.