Augmented Museums and Installations – The “Fossil Discovery Adventure” App

Augmented Museums and Installations – The “Fossil Discovery Adventure” App

On Thursday, May 25th we launched “Fossil Discovery Adventure,” an educational exhibit-enhancing augmented reality experience made in partnership with the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC) in Morden, Manitoba.  Like “Cinémental 25” before it, Fossil Discovery Adventure was an experimental passion project we co-developed with the education-focused, immersive technology start-up, Bit Space Development.

The free app is available on Google Play and the App Store, and will be a permanent addition to the CFDC gallery.

To us the app not only shows that Manitoba-based innovation is built on a willingness to collaborate, but how cutting edge technology can be deployed locally to museums, historical sites and schools to better engage users. It’s our belief that unique augmented reality experiences don’t have to be expensive to have impact, they just have to be creatively designed and implemented, and that’s what we did with the Fossil Discovery Adventure.

Live Bruce in Gallery with Phone


Project Goal

The primary goal on this project was to create an experience that led users through the entire gallery while expanding their engagement with existing content through the use of a richly interactive game that tested and rewarded users for their knowledge. This goal was to be accomplished under tight technical and budgetary limitations.

For us this goal and the project’s limitations made it an ideal experiment into how to design, build and deploy novel augmented reality experiences in a gallery setting — something we’ve been eager to explore for many years.

The most important outcomes so far has been the smiles and excitement we’ve seen in users young and old seeking out and collecting these fossils.

 Welcome to Morden

Kids Digging for Fossils at the CFDC

The design and content of this app was to be custom-crafted, and to a large extent location-locked to the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden as a way to build up their on-location mobile and interactive offerings.

Premise and Concept

The premise of the app was simple, allow users to find, dig, and collect fossils hidden around the CFDC by applying knowledge gleaned from existing exhibits, turning each user into something of a digital paleontologist.

In the Fossil Discovery Adventure, users collect AR fossils throughout CFDC by finding digital “dig sites” which launches trivia related to the content in that area of the Discovery Centre.

By answering questions correctly users unlock the tools needed to dig and collect 3D digital fossils. Each fossil uncovered is a digital replica of the CFDC’s Guinness World Record holding Mosasaur (the “T-Rex of the sea”), Bruce. By collecting fossils from all 12 dig sites users can build a complete Bruce skeleton and bring that skeleton to life in ways never before possible at the CFDC. Visitors can even take the replica home using specially designed posters and t-shirts available in the Gift Shop.


Fossil Discovery Adventure UI-1
Game UI: Main Menu, Dig Site Scanner, Trivia
Fossil Discovery Adventure UI-2
Game UI: Fossil Digging, AR View and Collecting, Specimen Building
Completed "Living" Fossil in AR
Completed “Living” Fossil in AR

Thoughts on the App from the CFDC

Working with the staff at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre was truly a great experience. They give us the leeway to propose the idea we felt would offer them the best experience and provided access to whatever we needed to make executing our proposed vision possible.



From Left: Peter Cantelon (CFDC Executive Director), CFDC Board Member, Corey King (ZenFri Inc.), Dan Blair (Bit Space Development).
Reviewing the App — From Left: Peter Cantelon (CFDC Executive Director), a CFDC Board Member, Corey King (ZenFri Inc.), and Dan Blair (Bit Space Development)

Here are some thoughts about the app from Peter Cantelon, the CFDC’s Executive Director:

“There is really nothing like this in any museum in Canada and we are thrilled to be on the leading edge of bringing interactive experiences like this into our gallery. What I like most about this app is that it doesn’t act as a replacement for what’s already here, instead it rewards visitors for exploring the galleries in a more immersive way. To top it off, the app lets users take a digital piece of our exhibits home to share it with friends and family.

“I think this is only the beginning of where we can take things.”

“The early feedback has been extremely positive. It’s amazing what these folks did on the budget we had. We’re already discussing what’s next and actively exploring a variety of technologies and ways to expand the CFDC beyond our physical boundaries — it’s a very exciting time.”


Launch Coverage

As with Cinémental 25, we were once again very fortunate to receive a lot of local press about the launch of the app. With each experience we create a critical objective is always to help bring awareness about the app to the widest audience possible.

Corey and Peter Answering Questions for the Press
Corey and Peter Answering Questions from the Press

We worked directly with the CFDC to craft and organize the media strategy to ensure that those interested in the app would hear about it. This time that involved setting up a media event at the CFDC, and planning for press that couldn’t make it out.

While the coverage is still ongoing, here is the current list of the coverage the App received:


Thanks to Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

We’d not have been able to make such a unique and interesting app if it wasn’t for the support, encouragement and daring of the folks at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. They put a lot of trust in our vision and our ability to execute and we’re so thrilled to have worked with such committed and generous partner.

This concept is something that has been on our bucket list for many years and we’re so happy to have had the opportunity to finally take a crack at it. I mean, we even got to make AR t-shirts!

AR t-shirt
They even let is make AR t-shirts, which are sold in the gift shop!

At the end of the day though, what we really loved about this project, beyond getting to work with amazing prehistoric creatures, is that it re-enforces that fact that there are so many hidden treasures in Manitoba. If this app brings more people to the CFDC, makes people more aware of the jaw dropping specimens right in our backyard, and most importantly improves their learning experience, well we couldn’t be happier.