The NASCAR Hall of Fame “Engine AR Experience” Receives Silver MUSE Award

The “Engine AR Experience” at the NASCAR Hall of Fame received a Silver MUSE Award in the category of AR, VR, and Mixed Reality on July 8, 2020. The Media and Technology MUSE Awards recognize outstanding achievement in museum media. Recipients are selected by an international group of industry professionals, the awards celebrate scholarship, community, innovation, creativity, education, accessibility, and inclusiveness. 

Within the Inside NASCAR exhibit at the newly refurbished NASCAR Hall of Fame sits a Ford FR9 EFI V8 engine and drivetrain, furnished by Roush-Yates, the pre-eminent race car engine builder. The engine sits on a pedestal, outside of a glass case for visitors to inspect. A new tablet-based Augmented Reality experience created by Cortina Productions, in coordination with the NASCAR Hall of Fame and exhibit partners, allows visitors to learn about the inner workings of the engine. 

One of the major goals of the interactive refresh at the NASCAR Hall of Fame was to change the existing user experience to a more hands-on, tactile journey. The “Engine AR Experience” was created using an agile, user-centered software development process that focused on enhancing the visitor experience by providing additional context to the artifact through the use of technology. 

The project team for the Augmented Reality experience involved a diverse range of expertise from experts within the NASCAR Hall of Fame (the exhibits, education, and A/V departments), the NASCAR family (Roush Yates Engines and partners), and in museum production (designers, developers, fabricators, Cortina Productions and EXPLUS). The main challenge for the exhibit was to take complex content and distill it into an experience that guests from a wide range of backgrounds can enjoy.  

The “Engine AR Experience” is housed in an Apple iPad Air that utilizes an iPort wireless base and is tethered to the exhibit. This setup allows visitors to freely maneuver the Augmented Reality experience around the engine. The experience uses real-time particle animations to offer a glimpse into the complex process taking place within a combustion engine. The interactive was developed in Unity 3D and leverages the ARKit SDK to generate and track a point cloud of the engine. 

The interactive offers multiple learning opportunities for visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of an engine. Content includes how airflow and combustion power race cars at over 200 mph as well as the illustration of energy in action and the transformation of energy. The user experience is designed to engage all types of NASCAR Hall of Fame visitors and includes specific content that meets core standards of learning objectives at the national and state levels for multiple grades. 

When using the “Engine AR Experience,” visitors have the option to choose between an “Explore Mode” and a “Learn Mode.” When visitors select “Explore Mode,” the tablet brings the engine to life through an animation cycle with all the basic parts of the engine in motion. As visitors hold the tablet, the overlay shows the engine working, with parts positioned over the actual engine. Visitors can move around the engine on three sides to see how the animation works from several angles. The engine is tracked so that the overlay remains consistently locked to the actual artifact.

“Learn Mode” slows down and isolates the various parts of the engine. Visitors see each part individually move in slow motion, with a text overlay that explains the part and what it does. In sequence, the animation moves from part to part as visitors see how the process of a combustion engine works.

The “Engine AR Experience” is currently available in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s exhibition Inside NASCAR.