Science for kids by Panasonic
For most of ordinary folks like me the Panasonic brand stands for latest in audio visual products. Granted Panasonic is not just that, in fact it is leading research in areas of assisted mobility, amongst many others. It is to sensitize people like me about its wide area of activities there is this spacious well appointed Panasonic building in Odaiba.
Smack in the middle of shopping malls and entertainment complex, it indeed tries hard to drive home the brand message while not being neither too mall like nor too serious. The all glass and steel structure with pristine white interiors convey a kind of space age ambiance. A central atrium with race track for kids, having real time track visuals projected on a large LED wall, does indeed convey a sporty brand image.
On one side of the hall there is a little tabletop city. Comprising of garden and villas with a set of moving trains, with a cache of latest cameras kept next, is meant to appeal to latest camera tech enthusiasts.
A path inside from the hall, with potted plants on two sides giving it an ambiance of a garden path, leads to a special display room. Special with vertical greenery on all the walls. It is perhaps to represent Panasonic’s interest in low energy green science.
In short the purpose of existence of this building is well justified by the careful display of modernity that subtly introduces its core business.But nowhere does it resort to bare advertising. In itself this concept of gentle understatement is a welcome one amongst a world full of glaring neon signs crying me too.
Touchy Feely Laws of Motion
On top of it the 2nd and 3rd floors house Panasonic Risupia, the science hall for the young and/or curious. This element adds an additional creativity to the already well orchestrated presentation. The 2nd floor lobby right out of the elevator has a series of workstations. Children can sit and scroll through the large touch screen icons to learn about various science and nature topics. The layout of the individual desks and workspace, the overall colour combination of the sitting area oozes a creative ambience. Even the really small ones can relish in a set of imaginatively created displays set up opposite the workstations. Simple experiment on gravity, when combined with principle of shifting center of gravity, gives rise to a set of hollow wooden pucks sort of dancing down a path. Kids never tire of picking up the pucks and placing back on the top just to see those amble down in a hilarious motion. Then there are the little marbles that make a cling clang sound when rolled down a carved passage and rolling over metal plates.
But the experiments graduate to more awesome ones as you turn left from the elevator. Here more of science is at play in the different exhibits displaying the effects of gravity on different sized paths, or generation of electricity when a piece of magnet is moved through a copper coil. There’s exhibits on how levers work, how conservation of momentum is visible in a set of similarly sized pendulums when swung in a set of 1, 2,3 or more. Each one is touchy feely, each experience is carefully chosen to surprise and impress. Science could not have been presented any more creatively, one might wonder.
Light, Sound and Action
But then there is the upper floor which focuses on light and sound. The 500 yen entry ticket in this floor secures a hand held unit for you. This is to display a track of your exploits in the games and exhibits, plus to let you get more info on each exhibit. Once done the device automatically upload your entire experience history for you to download later at home. As you step in, you go past a set of concave convex mirrors that change you into slim or err healthy. This and other themes build up the story finally that rolled into a 3D panorama at the last display.
OK, lets take a step at a time. The next exhibit past the mirrors introduces you to concave convex lenses, using which you have to focus a picture. Then a next one lets you play with sound. With a wave of your hand you control the pitch of sound. It is visible in the shape of the wave reflected on the wall. And a further one let’s you solve a puzzle projected visually on a wall in front. Real pieces of various shaped articles need to be arranged matching the projected shape. The activity by participant is monitored and helpful hints are projected onto the wall.
A further more complex but an immensely popular display involves more interaction in the way of trying to arrange a set of shapes on a magnetic wall. The shapes so arranged are to guide a set of balls, projected on the wall, popping out of a tube at the top and rolling down into another open tube below. The way the shapes are placed guides realistically how the balls run down below as if the projected ball shaped lights are really 3D objects. The whole activity changes very fast, moves through levels and challenges participants based on how well they could arrange the shapes and catch the balls.
All such interaction finally leads to the 3D show that raises the bar on immersive experience. While we are still waiting for personal VR or AR devices, this one gives us a glimpse of how it feels to be in the midst of a projected story and interact with the objects in the story. Attendees chosen through a quick game of “stone paper scissors” are invited onto a small stage right among the audience. As he or she steps onto the stage, the projection equipment let them step into the story. The audience gets to interact with the boys and girls in the story as the story progresses. The stories change according to the show times but the experience really changes ones perception about where science can be heading to.
And that is after all the intention of Panasonic Risupia, to engage and interact with its audience the common man. A half a day outing can be an enjoyable one on any day especially if it’s too hot outside or say rainy. For us the Couchflyer team it is a good outing on any day!