Blending Science Knowledge and AI Gaming Techniques for Experiential Learning

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This paper addresses the scientific, design and experiential learning issues in creating an extremely realistic 3D interactive of a wild beluga whale pod for a major aquarium that is situated next to a group of real beluga whales in an integrated marine mammal exhibit. The Virtual Beluga Interactive was conceived to better immerse and engage visitors in complicated educational concepts about the life of wild belugas compared to what is typically possible via wall signage or a video display, thereby allowing them to interactively experience wild whale behavior and hopefully have deeper insights into the life of beluga whales. The gaming simulation is specifically informed by research data from live belugas, (e.g. voice recordings
tied to mother/calf behavior) and from interviews with marine mammal scientists and education staff at the Vancouver Aquarium. The collaborative user interface allows visitors to engage in educational "what-if" scenarios of wild beluga emergent behavior using techniques from advanced gaming systems, such as physically based animation, real-time photo-realistic rendering, and artificial intelligence algorithms.
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