Our TUI will be a Microsoft surface-based application that incorporates physical tokens that interact with the surface, as well as multi-touch interaction with images on the surface. Its purpose is to create an immersive outer space experience for young children who have difficulty understanding the abstract concepts of space and the solar system. We will use metaphors that are intuitive for children so that they can easily navigate the different modes of the application.

Tokens:

1. 8 Planets + Pluto
A model for each of the 8 planets and pluto. The model will be designed to look like the real planet, as well as consist of materials that reflect the physical properties of each planet– for example, the gaseous planets will be made of some light-weight, foamy material, while the heavy, dense planets will be made out of a hard material and weighted.

2. Spaceship
A model spaceship. The user can “travel” to a planet by placing the spaceship on the image of the planet on the surface.

3. Astronaut
A model astronaut. The user can “land” on a planet by placing the astronaut on the image of the planet on the surface.

Modes:

The application will have three levels of depth–

1. Solar System mode

Designed to seem like space, with the sun at the center. The sun will be surrounded by 8 concentric rings that represent the orbits of the 8 planets. The rings will be faint, but visible. In this mode, the user can put the planet tokens on the surface. Upon contact, the planet token will make a “stamp” of that planet on the surface, which can be manipulated across the surface. If the user stamps the planet in one location, and they place the planet token in another location, the planet will jump to the new location (multiple copies of planets will not appear).

If the user successfully places the planet on the correct ring around the sun, that ring will light up, and the planet will be locked into orbit.

If all 8 of the planets are successfully placed, the model will look like this.

2. Planet orbit mode

To get to this mode, the user needs to place the spaceship token on the image of the planet on the surface. The user can switch between which planet they are viewing by putting the corresponding planet token on the surface while in this mode– that way, they can quickly transition between planets without needing to switch modes. In this mode, the user can see details about the planet’s moons and rotation period, as well as get a close-up view of the planet. They can interact with any of the images on the surface at this time, which will respond with some kind of animation or sound clip or text box.

3. Planet surface mode

To get to this mode, the user needs to put the astronaut token on the planet, whether they are in planet mode or in solar system mode. Again, they can switch which planet they are looking at by using planet tokens in this mode. To return to solar system mode, they need to take the astronaut token off the surface. In this mode, the user is given a view of the surface of the planet as if they were on the planet, and can see information on the temperature, climate, and chemical composition of the planet.

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