Hundreds of millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the region that became Nevada—and today, innovative digital representations of these creatures are featured in a brand-new exhibit at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum (LVNHM). Digital Dinos is an exhibit designed and developed by the Museum and the interactive exhibit firm Ideum, based in Corrales, New Mexico. This projection-based exhibit allows visitors to touchlessly interact with a variety of dinosaurs once native to Nevada and the southwest.
The exhibit’s 16-foot projection displays a scene from the Cretaceous Period, with massive plant-eating Titanosaurs in the background. New dinosaur characters then begin to appear: a meat-eating Eotryrannus tracks visitors in response to their movements, while a small pack of Deinonychus hides from guests when they appear. When an Eolambia mother and baby appear in the scene, visitors can even stretch their arms and feed them ferns!
The exhibit uses a Microsoft Azure Kinect to track visitor movements and provide corresponding dinosaur interaction. The exhibit employs this same technology to remind visitors to observe 6-foot social distancing recommendations. This allows visitors to more safely interact with the Digital Dinos exhibit in the age of COVID-19.
The overall concept for Digital Dinos is somewhat similar to other full-body touchless exhibits that Ideum has created over the years, but this new exhibit is unique in several ways. First and foremost, all of the dinosaurs in this experience are native to Nevada. A few are clad in feathers, and these depictions, although they are stylized and animated, are based on the most up-to-date science available. The entire scene, including the flora and the geography, is based on what Nevada was like 100 million years ago.
“This exhibit features several Nevada dinosaurs. It is a great compliment to the ongoing excavations and research that we are conducting across the state. We are learning more about our prehistoric past all the time. Here’s an opportunity for our visitors to walk into it,” says Las Vegas Natural History Museum Paleontologist, Dr. Bonde.
The exhibit is unique in other ways as well. “All of the interactions, 3D models and 2D animations, the sounds, and all of the code are completely new. We applied lessons learned from past projects, but everything else here is unique. The real technical innovation here is the way our team of artists combined 3D and 2D animations. We’ve never done anything quite like this before,” says Ideum Founder Jim Spadaccini.
Thanks to the generous support of Ms. Susan Houston, Digital Dinos premieres this weekend at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. In addition, a partnership between LVNHM and Ideum will make this exhibit available to other museums and public spaces, so the experience has the potential to become a national or even international phenomenon. “We are thrilled to offer such a unique digital exhibit for visitors to interact with, particularly at this difficult time with the pandemic. We are also excited to know that other museums may soon adopt this exhibit for their visitors,” says Marilyn Gillespie, Executive Director of LVNHM.
The Las Vegas Natural History Museum began in 1989 with a small group of citizens who knew the community would benefit from the educational resources it could provide. After very humble beginnings, this private non-profit museum is now a Smithsonian Affiliate, accredited with the American Alliance of Museums, and is a federal and state repository for fossils and artifacts. From the desert to the ocean, from Nevada to Africa, from prehistoric times to the present, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum takes visitors of all ages on a learning adventure around the world.
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