In Conversation with Moment Factory: Part 2

Part 2 of our conversation with Montréal-based multimedia studio, Moment Factory, is here! In Part 2 of this discussion, Micaela Muldoon and Olivier Maurice talk about how to connect audiences to digital experiences, how to discover if your immersive experience is working — or not working, and how Moment Factory creates projects that truly bring people together.
Click here to catch up on Part 1 of this conversation!

MM: We’re wondering here at the Art Gallery, with any type of digital immersive experience, what kinds of touchpoints do you consider to enhance the visitor experience for the project?

OM: The view of, let’s say, real-time content or interactive content is that you can communicate multiple software systems together, so we don’t have to think only about projections. Let’s say we won’t focus only on video and sound; we could add lights to it, we could have physical touchpoints, connected objects, you can use your phone to trigger an effect on the wall, so the user feel a bit more immersed in that environment. So we bring the concept of a “state machine”: so each state is triggered by an action of the user. Let’s say we have a creature in front of us. No one is close to the screen, so the creators start waving at us to come closer we can hear a small sound just entice people to come closer to the screen. As the user approaches, it’s detected by a present sensor, and the creature changes attitude and it starts to animate in a different way…and this is the power of the interactive process.

A still from Moment Factory’s North Forest Lights at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

MM: Very good, thank you for sharing. And in terms of audiences for these projects, how should an organization that’s partnering with Moment Factory create a digital experience like the ones that you were just describing? How would they go about identifying and targeting their audiences for the projects?

OM: Generally we hope that the experience will be quite interesting for young children and older people; it has to be universally understood. The way that we present the technology doesn’t need to be just fit for one type of person, it needs to be well understood by everyone. So we can make a metaphor, let’s say, with Disney movies: fun on two levels. The first level is it’s quite simple, can be understood by everyone. So let’s say you have a screen again, the creator comes back and we can jump around just under the same place, and while I jump the picture jumps in front of me. So the child is having fun just jumping; the creatures respond to it. But as well, you can find “okay the higher I jump, the higher that you jump” or it starts to do something else — like to call another creature just close to him…so that’s what we try to aim for. It’s to have that this first development direction that it’s fun, it’s beautiful, but you have like this meaning, message behind it to be more confident for an older audience.

MM: Okay, so you try to make it as universal as possible.

OM: And yeah, of course, like you said it does depend on the person, the client that you’re working with, their target audience too.

A still from Moment Factory’s Arctic Adventure at the Museum of Science, Boston

MM: So do you have any ways of finding out…how your projects go, what kind of audiences respond best to certain features? And based on that, you can make recommendations to the client you’re working with?

OM: We have a UX lab at the Moment Factory and UX is focused really on the user and we try to have like a standard of experiences…so let’s say for the Windsor experience, we want to attract the locals, and maybe, not only the people who are used to the art. So we know that our experience shouldn’t focus really on people who already know the artist…so our first approach is not to go as deep as someone who is well acknowledged of what’s happening. We need really to fit with the right mind of the people. So we can [connect with] all types of audiences, but we need to think about “okay, where are we delivering this project…with what kind of people” and then we adapt the concept or text or visuals.

MM: So how do you know if a digital project is right for Moment Factory to take on? What makes you decide “yes, we want to partner with this company?”

OM: So a project that works towards the goal of bringing people together…that’s a good project. We’re really trying to get people to interact with each other in the outside world. So that’s a way we do it. And also if it’s innovative in a way — it could be just in the way that we want to transmit the message or the technology that we use — it’s a plus, but at first, we just want to bring people together.

A still from Moment Factory’s Planet Ice: Mysteries of the Ice Ages at the Canadian Museum of Nature

MM: That’s awesome. So when you collaborate with another institution on a project like that, what does it typically look like?

OM: Let’s say when we have a client who’s on board with our process and everything and works towards the agile management way, it’s nice to include them not only at milestones. We’re not just going to present the 25%, 50%, 75%, and that’s it, the project is delivered…in this agile process, the client is not only someone who approves but is part of the solution of what we’re trying to achieve. So let’s say with the art gallery, we share progress: “okay where are we at, what do you think about that this is our first gameplay, we just tested it, doesn’t work, but this is our next idea to move it forward.” So in that way, [the client] understands really the reality of developing an application, and then at the end, it’s going to be a good one for them because they’re going to know everything that happened…so there are no big surprises at the end.

MM: Once the project’s out there in the world, it’s on the go, it’s been launched, people are interacting with it, what are some of the key performance indicators that you look for to show how the project is doing?

OM: Yeah in some projects, special interactive ones, we try to implement user analytics on those because it’s really subjective. At some point, you see “okay it’s working but do I really know how it’s working well or not?” Let’s say, for this discovery map that we’re building for the Spencer gallery, we’re doing a website so we are able to see how many people try the game, how many people completed the whole experience. Many people get to the museum after completing the experience so that kind of data it’s very interesting to know because it helps not only to say “okay people like it,” but also “it gathered people to my museum.”
I don’t know if you know but we have Lumina at Moment Factory… and the goal when we deliver this kind of project, it’s not “okay integration is done I can go on and that’s it and then good luck”. We try to have soft launches for our projects. So let’s say just before the integration, and before it’s opening to a large public, we test it with locals and see how they react, and is the message clear, what can we improve. So we may be live a couple of days before the official launch to maybe modify and iterate some minor aspects that can really enhance the experience at the end, especially in terms of having an interactive project.

A still from Moment Factory’s Perplexiplex, Meow Wolf Denver

MM: Actually, branching off from there if things are not going well — or even if they are — in terms of engaging people, what are some strategies that you use, or that you encourage the organization you’re working with to use, to boost audience engagement after the project is launched?

OM: Usually with an interactive project when we launch it, okay it’s like the first test with real users, but it doesn’t mean that the experience is going to be finished…after we try maybe for a couple of weeks, a couple of months, we can arrive with a new update. As we go more and more, we might add physical touchpoints with [the] experience. So let’s say instead of just having a phone, maybe they can look at a projection, they can hear sounds in the city, and the phone is starting to be the controller of these activations.
So we really think, not only in the process, that we do the development in an interactive way, but also of the deployment of projects in the interactive process as well. So we just make sure that it is well understood and then we move forward with…a deeper interactive touchpoint.

MM: Yeah, I know it is a tough question, it’s very situational.
Thank you so much for your time and for answering the questions!

OM: You’re welcome.

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Art Windsor-Essex (AWE) is a non-profit public art gallery that uses the power of art to open hearts and minds to new ideas. Change happens here.

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Art Windsor-Essex

Art Windsor-Essex

Art Windsor-Essex (AWE) is a non-profit public art gallery that uses the power of art to open hearts and minds to new ideas. Change happens here.

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