Georgia Aquarium's Predator

Changing the perception of sharks from fear to fascination using Augmented Reality.

My Role

User Research
Interaction Design
Visual Design
User Testing


Sep - Dec 2019
Academic Project

Tools Used

Torch AR
Premiere Pro

Team Members

Gurudutt Perichetla
Candice Butts
Sonam Singh
Yangyi Xu
Yash Lara

NOTE: This Project is under an NDA

Since this project is under an NDA, I can only share some of the information on the public domain. All of the information in this project is my own and does not reflect the views of the Georgia Aquarium.


Expansion 2020

In Fall 2020, the Georgia Aquarium will open a 45,000 square foot expansion which will be home to a new shark exhibit titled ‘Predator’. The aquarium currently houses eight shark species, and this could expand with the opening to the new gallery. The additional sharks will arrive from a variety of sources, including accredited zoos and aquariums which share a common vision with the Georgia Aquarium.

The Aquarium wants to incorporate Augmented Reality in the new exhibit to present immersion about these sharks and incorporate immersion. This project was a collaboration between Georgia Tech and the Aquarium, for our “Research Methods in HCI” class.


A Change in Perception

The aquarium came to us with a specific problem regarding the perception most people have of sharks. The aquarium is aware of the fact that most people have a negative perception of sharks. Sharks are often feared and are considered dangerous predators.

The problem statement given to us by the aquarium was of changing this perception:


How might we change the perception of sharks from “Fear to Fascination, and then to conservation and celebration”?

The aquarium aims to bring about this change across all people of all ages since the fear of sharks is a very common emotion among everyone. The aquarium wants to change this perception and wants everyone to understand that sharks are an integral and necessary part of the ecosystem.


An Augmented Reality Experience

We designed an AR Checkpoint experience designed exclusively for the Magic Leap 1 as a storytelling medium to help understand the importance of sharks.


Planning our Research and Design


Competitive Analysis
Elicitation Methods


User Personas
Empathy Maps


Divergent Designs
Prototypic Walkthrough
Low Fidelity Prototype
High Fidelity Prototype
AR Prototype


Expert based Tesing
User based Testing


Understanding our Users and the needs of the Aquarium

Competitive Analysis

Our initial desk research focused on how technology was being used in different aquariums and museums around the world. We performed a competitive analysis considering The Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, The Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo, The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and The National Museum in Singapore, High Museum of Art, Paper Museum.

We uncovered the use of kiosk systems, installations and the use of AR and VR solutions. Also, we understood the budgetary and technical limitations of using certain technologies.


We used observations as an exploratory research technique to understand how the visitors in the aquarium behave and how they interact with the different artifacts in exhibits. Each member had an individual observation session that lasted around 1.5 hours, followed by a group observation session to better understand the visitors’ behavior in each exhibit.

We found out the different user groups in the aquarium: Children, Young Adults, Elderly Adults, and people with disabilities.

On-site Survey

Following the observations, we launched a survey to get more information about the visitors and study their experiences in a very short period. Our survey was conducted by recruiting individual participants in-person at the Georgia Aquarium.

Here are some of the Survey Questions and Responses:


We used the interview technique to get a better understanding of the different aspects of the visitors’ experiences. Our goal was to supplement the understanding we had gathered about the likes and dislikes of the visitors from survey and observation with a detailed understanding of the ‘Why’s’ of those through semi-structured interviews. We conducted three contextual and two non-contextual interviews.

We found 4 major themes from the results of our interviews:

Elicitation Methods

We used two kinds of elicitation methods (photo and drawing elicitation) to understand people’s perception of sharks. This was a key research technique that helped us gain information about how we could change the perception of sharks from fear to fascination. The majority of participants for this research method were students at Georgia Tech, while some were people that we met in our apartments and public.

Upon analyzing this information through content analysis and affinity mapping, we found out that most people have negative associations with sharks (e.g. ~40% of the responses were related to words like dangerous and mean), while a small proportion of the people seemed to have positive perceptions (e.g. ~15% of the responses were related to words like interesting and highlighting the importance of conservation). The remaining responses were about the physical attributes of the shark and their aquatic habitat.


Our Research Findings

With all our research insights, we then began to figure out how all these factors connect to shape the visitor experience. We began developing story-telling techniques - personas, creating empathy maps and storyboards to better understand the user and the context.

User Personas & Empathy Maps

Based on our 4 user groups, we made personas and empathy maps to better understand the users and their motivations.

Divergent Designs

We came up with 4 designs that could be implemented in the exhibit.


Prototypic Walkthrough

Based on the insights for the feedback sessions, we came up with a combination of divergent designs and conducted a prototypic walkthrough. We used the Wizard of Oz Technique to simulate the exhibit. 8 participants were divided into 2 groups, while each group was followed by a moderator and note-taker.

AR Checkpoints in the Exhibit

Magic Leap Guidelines

Magic Leap's user interface is designed with Transparency in mind. We designed our entire design system consisting of elements and components closely adhering to the guidelines laid out by Magic Leap.

Entry to Checkpoint 1: Onboarding

A major goal of the onboarding process was to familiarize the user with the platform, the headset, and the different interaction methods. We allow the user to choose his/her adventure for a personalized experience. Using a Shark Assistant helps in fostering empathy using a first-hand account of how sharks live in the wild.

An Early Demo of our Initial Onboarding Experience

Checkpoint 2: Fish Finder

The Fish Finder feature allows users to view sharks through the Magic Leap 1 headset and hover over a shark and select it, in the display view. This allows the system to analyze the shark using Computer Vision and perform a quick search through Georgia Aquarium's database to retrieve information about the shark. Narrative voiceovers aid with presenting the information, in real-time.

An Early Demo of the Fish Finder Experience

Checkpoint 3: Cleaning up our Oceans (Interactive AR Game)

In order to increase awareness of how oceanic pollution is affecting the lives of sharks and marine animals every day, on a global scale, we came up with an interactive game wherein the user will clean up the oceans by removing trash.


Expert-based Testing

We chose to conduct think-aloud sessions with experts from the Georgia Aquarium and Georgia Tech, wherein they were required to freely use the different elements of the design and express their thoughts and feelings aloud.

This step was followed by a short unstructured interview where we asked questions about the overall usability of the design and gather general feedback on the design. Specifically, we wanted to know if the design met the Aquarium’s goals of educating guests through emerging technologies while immersing them in the Predator experience.

User-based Testing

Users also participated in a think-aloud section, but this time it was task-based. The users were asked to engage with all aspects of the prototype.  Our goal was to:

1. Determine whether our three proposals of interaction were engaging
2. If the three proposals were easily understood
3. Discover blind spots where our prototype did not meet participants’ expectations.  

We used moderator based ratings on the participant’s level of success in completing each proposed task. 


Key Takeaways

I learned how to:

1. Design for Augmented Reality Experiences - keeping in mind the spatial considerations.

2. Incorporate new qualitative methods in my research

3. Collaborate and work along with an external organization - in my case, largest aquarium in the United States.