At Science 2.0 we are not big fans of being clever just for the sake of being clever - we were smart kids and there are smart kids today and the belief by government funding agencies that STEM outreach needs to be cartoons and video games and mascots is a little patronizing to intelligent young people.

So young people do not need to be talked down to but some things are just cool and everyone likes cool - magic goggles and interactive maps are just that.

Gaetano Ling, an Imperial College London postgraduate, has developed interactive tools to make museums and galleries a little less 'dry' for children, including magic goggles, a Harry Potter style map and brushes that make sounds.

The prototype virtual reality glasses are called Corbu Goggles and they ‘magically’ reveal the creative processes behind artwork. Ling has also developed a device that enables visually impaired children to hear sounds linked to a particular painting and a Harry Potter style map that gradually reveals more of itself to make navigating galleries and museums a more adventurous experience.

Corbu Goggles.  Link: UCL

The Corbu Goggles were named in honor of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, who is better known as Le Corbusier, a famous architect, designer and urban planner and one of the pioneers of the modernist architecture movement. He also taught Ling’s father architecture and in homage to this family connection, the prototype Corbu Goggles were modeled after Le Corbusier’s famous round spectacles.

The Corbu Goggles have a camera inserted in front of the frame, which can detect what a wearer is looking at in a gallery. Mr Ling has developed bar code labels that are positioned next the artwork and when the camera detects these, visual information stored in a computer is downloaded into two mini computer screens, positioned in each goggle. The visual information morphs the artwork for the wearer, peeling back layers to show the artistic inspiration behind the masterpiece.

Ling has developed a number of demonstrations to show the Corbu Goggles in action. In one of these, the wearer can see the inspiration behind a copy of a painting created by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, the original of which is currently on display in the same gallery that Mr Ling took his nephew to. The painting, called “The Cow”, is an abstract piece consisting of brightly colored squares. The goggles morph the painting into the original sketch of a cow that the painting is based on. This picture then evolves into an abstract painting of the cow, which was an early version of the artwork, before turning into the final abstract painting.

Ling also developed a Harry Potter-style interactive map, made from heat activated material called thermochromatic film. Transistors embedded inside this film are electronically switched on by a computer when it senses, via the barcodes, that a user has seen all the artwork in a space. The transistors then heat up a new section of the thermochromatic film to reveal another part of the map, providing a pathway to a new gallery space for the map user to explore.

The new tools were created by Ling as part of his final project for the Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) course, which is run jointly by Imperial and the Royal College of Art (RCA). Students receive a joint MA (RCA) and MSc (Imperial) in Innovation Design Engineering after they have completed the 21 month course.

Read more on Ling's projects