Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exhibit Inspiration: Hacking The Wii With Johnny Lee

Johnny Lee is currently a Graduate PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University who, amongst his other projects, has been sharing ways to "hack" (in the positive, original sense of the word) the Wii Remote (Wiimote) to create amazing low-cost projects like digital whiteboards and desktop Virtual Reality displays.

Johnny is sharing his computer code in a totally open source way and also uses YouTube to disseminate his projects and research! Check out his "Procrastineering" blog as well.

What does this have to do with museums? Well, Exhibit Developers, Museum Educators (and Visitors!) constantly struggle with creative and appropriate uses of technology in museums. (Which when most people use the word "technology" in an exhibit context, inevitably means "computers".) This is especially true given the scary statistic that school-age children in the United States spend on average 44 hours per week using "screen based" (TV, GameBoys, Computers, etc.) technologies, but only 30 minutes engaging in outdoor activities! Do we really need to provide more screen time for young visitors to museums?

From the standpoint of both cost (Wiimotes run about $40, and the other materials Johnny Lee uses for his hacks are of the Radio Shack variety) and creativity (even thoughtful computer software is not nearly as engaging as messing around with a "cool" technology like the Wii remote to make new creations) consider how you could replace some of the staid technology in your museum with a place to hack Wii remotes!

What are some of your favorite "non screen-based" uses of technology in museum exhibits? Let us know in the Comments Section below!

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