To kick off the project, we had a detailed meeting with our stakeholders to understand their expectations for the project. The result of the meeting was a triad of goals.

  1. Provide a technological and interactive solution that helps alter the perception of sharks in the minds of the aquarium visitors from “fear” to “fascination”.
  2. Provide a solution that provides an entertaining, engaging and immersive experience to the aquarium guests.
  3. Provide a solution that ensures the safety and comfort of the marine animals, while also keeping them at the center of the visitor’s focus.

Recreating that child like curiousity to learn about these sharks through technology

On the basis of this meeting, we discussed our time commitment, and decided to break down the timeline in the following manner. At the end of the project, the aim was to have a working proof of concept, with testing done for evaluation.


To begin, we conducted research with visitors at the aquarium, to understand the shortcomings of the current exhibits. The proposed design of the predator project can be seen on the right, and we decided to conduct research in current exhibits with similar structures.

We employed the following research methods


Spent time silently observing the users from a distance, and taking notes. Categorized observations using the AEIOU framework. Conducted the observations for 5 exhibits similar in various ways to the Predator exhibit.


We designed a survey on qualtrics informed by our observations. We distributed the survey online, and also went to the aquarium for on-site surveys. Received a total of 202 responses.


Identified themes informed by the observations and survey results. Used the themes to guide an interview session with 10 users. Asked follow up questions to explore interesting avenues.


Had 21 participants sketch sharks and provided rationale behind specific features of sharks. We had them make personal meaning maps to identify keywords associated with sharks.

The research methods provided us with a lot of raw data. We categorized the data into three different categories and employed different methods to make sense of them. The goal of the analysis was to convert raw data into formats that inform brainstorming.

  1. Quantitative Data Analysis: In order to identify trends and opportunities for designs, we visualized data in the form of bar graphs and pie charts. The trends helped result in inferences and personae.
  2. Affinity Diagramming: We started with individual user quotes and observations, and after four layers of grouping, identified themes.
  3. Sketches and Maps: The data from the data-elicitation methods consisted of sketches and personal meaning maps. We created word-cloud visualizations to illustrate the perception of sharks in the minds of the general public. This was validation for the assumption that sharks get a bad reputation.

User Research provided us data. However, data is not usable to the designer in raw format.

We identified some notable findings through our research, and discussed the implications these findings might have on our proposed solutions. We identified 18 such findings and their implications. Some of the findings relevant to our final design our listed here.

Finding: Most visitors to the aquarium travel in families, or groups of friends.

Implication: The solution should afford interaction with, and facilitate interaction amongst, all members of the group/family.

Finding: Current information mechanisms are ineffective.

Implication: Employ better methods of information dissemination that are attractive, as well as helpful in retaining information.

Finding: Parents compromise their own experience for their children to enjoy.

Implication: Consider solutions that enable different family members to play different roles while providing a pleasant experience to all.

Finding: Anthropomorphism of marine animals helps with retention.

Implication:The solution should afford interaction with, and facilitate interaction amongst, all members of the group/family.

In order to ensure that our designs remain user-centered, we took the data gathered from our User Research and designed the following Personae that encapsulated the characteristics of our target users. We went from designing for visitors to designing for the Richards family.

Designing for the Richards Family


Now, we wanted to use the research outcomes to brainstorm a large number of ideas. We put up the design implications and personae on the board, and spent time thinking of ideas individually. We then had a discussion and came up with more ideas to pursue.

We evaluated our ideas on the basis of feasibility, effectiveness as well as creativity. We shortlisted 4 design ideas, taking different approaches to tackle the problem statement. We sketched the essential features and working of the ideas.

Mobile Based

Through a mobile app, you can scan a shark at the aquarium, and find out about the rescue story of that particular shark.


A touch based interface, where you can interact with digital representations of the sharks, to get information about them.

Shark's Point
of View

You can view the point of view of a shark through your mobile screen, and identify whether different objects are food or not.

Visualizing Ocean
Without Sharks

An interactive projection on the walls of the tank, visualizing a dirty and overpopulated ocean without of sharks.

We needed an evaluation of our ideas to identify characteristics that are desirable. At this stage of the evaluation we decided to take input from the stakeholders. We presented the ideas in the form of sketches to the stakeholders, and asked them to discuss pros and cons.

Gathering Feedback from Stakeholders

Based on the feedback, it was clear that while each design idea had unique positives, they also had several issues pertaining to usability, feasibility, and safety of marine animals. There was no clear favorite among the four ideas for our stakeholders.

We took the positive components from each solution to form a coherent experience for the visitors. The final solution would consist of interactive QR code posters, a mobile web-based interface, and an interactive screen. The flow of the proposed solution is as follows:


We then went on to develop low-fidelity prototypes of each component of the solution. We kept the prototypes low fidelity, in order to gain conceptual feedback, rather than feedback about the details of the design. The prototypes were of the following 3 kinds:

  1. Poster Design Layout: The poster would have instructions for Tom (parent) to interact with the exhibition. Tom can use his phone to scan the QR code for one of the sharks on the poster.
  2. Mobile Interface Wireframes: The mobile interface would give information to Tom (parent) about the Shark's role in nature's ecosystem. Tom can also personalize his own shark.
  3. Screen Paper Prototypes: Tom (parent) can use his phone to add the personalised shark into the "virtual ocean" on the screen-based interface through NFC. Megan (child) then plays with the interface to drop different species into the "virtual ocean", in turn learning what is food for her shark.

Poster Layout Wireframe

Flow for Mobile Wireframes

Paper Prototype for Screen-based Interface

We wanted to test the concept of the entire flow of our solution. To achieve this goal, we recruited 4 participants and had them role-play members of two different families. They then interacted with the prototypes and provided us with feedback regarding their interactions.

Gathering Feedback from Target Users

The session provided us with multiple insights. The participants responded positively to the proposed solution. We got feedback on the design of each component of the solution and altered the designs to reflect them. We implemented these changes in the high-fidelity prototypes.


We incorporated our findings from the feedback session into our high-fidelity prototypes. We 3D printed the poster, designed the web-based interface on sketch and principle, and developed the screen-based game using p5.js and

Created for each shark species, various posters will be situated next to multiple viewing glasses. There is the lifelike shark that first draws the attention of visitors. On the bottom, there is a QR code, scanning which redirects the user to a mobile-based web experience.

Changes from Feedback Session

The QR code leads to a web-page, through which the user can access information about the species they have scanned. The user can personalize a digital shark of the same species. Finally, the user is given instructions to proceed with the final aspect, the screen-based interface.

  1. Using a browser based website instead of a mobile app ensures that visitors don't have to download "one more app" just for their aquarium visit.
  2. The information and interaction are concise, and make sure that the mobile viewing does not hinder the viewing experience.
  3. Personalising and Anthropomorphising the shark ensure that the visitors retain the information they consume about the shark.

The personalized shark is dropped into an interactive screen interface through NFC technology. There is also a panel of buttons displaying different species of marine animals. Pressing a button drops a specimen into the ocean, and interacts with the sharks to give information.

The user can then interact with the button panel, and enter different marine animals into the interactive screen. If the animal is food for sharks, the user's shark approaches the animal and eats it up. A popup gives data about the role of sharks eating that particular species.

If the user enters an animal that their particular species of shark does not eat, the animal approaches the animal but does not eat. A popup gives data about why the shark does not eat that particular animal. This can help demystify myths about how sharks eat humans.

Shark Interacting with Food

Shark Interacting with Humans


With our final designs ready, we moved onto conducting a thorough and detailed evaluation. We wanted feedback on specific design details of our high-fidelity prototypes, and the experience our solutions provided to our users. We wanted feedback from end-users, as well as experts.

We used the following methods for evaluation.

  1. Cognitive Walkthrough: Conducted the session with 6 experts. Asked them to interact with the solution by giving them tasks, and interviewed them.
  2. Task-based User Testing: We recruited 2 groups of 4, and had them play different roles of family members. We had them interact with our solution through the Wizard of Oz technique, and then interviewed them.

The solution was received well and provided an overall pleasant and enjoyable experience to the visitors. The testing also suggested that there was scope for improvement, and certain aspects of the solution required more thought. These are shown as follows:

Visitors might not be willing to scan QR codes without knowing what is in store for them. They cannot expect what are the outcomes of scanning QR codes, so they are apprehensive of doing so. It will be better to get a preview of what comes next after scanning QR codes.

Some users did not understand what NFC scanning is and how it works. There is too much technical jargon used that may make users uneasy. We can replace jargon with friendly language that everyone understands and make it accessible to users with varying levels of technical skills.

The message behind the dead and barren ocean in the absence of sharks was misunderstood by most people. We can animate the interactive screen to visualize the percentage of sharks in the ocean, developing a stronger correlation between the ocean and the population of sharks.


  1. Working with Industry Partners: I learned that it is important to keep the stakeholders in the loop, and their goals can be in unison with the users'.
  2. Involving Users in Iterative Design: I learned the value of taking feedback for every iteration of the solution, and how it helps the designer look beyond their biases.
  3. Context is Important: Richer data can be gathered on the field, as compared to recreating the setting artificially in a lab. Moreover, the fidelity of the design effects the quality of feedback.

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