Mark and Katie identified a useful model for data collection using the face-recognition system. That model is Dungeons & Dragons. Visitors come with goals in mind, often in groups, and they take on a variety of roles within those groups. D&D and similar role-playing games provide a ready set of rules and procedures for modeling this kind of situation.

In practice, this means the Visitor Center exhibit space will be divided into a grid, with the system recording data based on proximity, direction and attributes of agents (visitors, volunteers and staff) and the grid squares themselves.

For example, the cabinet of whale sculptures inside the front door would occupy a row of “artifact” squares on the grid. Visitor interactions would be recorded accordingly. Interactions with the exhibit would update each visitor’s individual profile to reflect engagement and potential learning. To use only-slightly-more D&D terms, spending time at the whale exhibit would add modifiers to, say, the visitor’s “Biology” and “Ocean Literacy” attributes. The same goes for volunteers and staff members, taking into account their known familiarity with certain material.

Mark and Katie have drafted what is essentially a dungeon map of the VC, complete with actual D&D miniatures. Staff members will even have character sheets, of a sort, to represent their knowledge in specific areas—this being a factor in their interactions with visitors.

In a visitor group scenario Mark walked me through today, the part of the touch pool volunteer was played by what I believe was a cleric of some sort. Mark has happily taken to the role of Dungeon Master.

This all forms a basic framework, but the amount and specificity of data we can collect and analyze in this way is staggering. We can also refer back to the original video to check for specific social interactions and other factors the face-recognition software might have missed.

In other news, Ursula will be released Friday morning. Here’s the word from Jordan:

“Wednesday afternoon the HMSC Husbandry team decided that now is the best time to release Ursula back into the wild. Our octopus from British Columbia is as feisty as ever and we feel that she is in good health. Because of this, we will be preparing Ursula for her journey back to the ocean Friday, December 23, 2011. We invite you to attend starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Visitor Center. We will then proceed to release her off Yaquina’s South Jetty about 9 .a.m.”

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