Ka Chun Yu is the Curator of Space Science at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He’s in charge of the digital planetarium there, and has been studying the effectiveness of using immersive dome environments in teaching different astronomical principles.

Ka-Chun-YuHis research has shown that immersive technologies are more effective at teaching certain astronomical principles such as why there are different seasons and how the sun rises and sets in different places throughout the year as well as throughout different places on the planet. That may not be a total surprise, but what was interesting was that the process of transforming and distorting immersive, 3D visualizations in order to work within a 2D projected context may actually be worse than telling people about it without using any visualizations at all. There are certain topics where being able to see objects fly around you are a critical part of understanding how the world works.

Ka Chun also talks about how he’s been using immersive technologies to facilitate group discussions with experts on various ecological issues facing us today. The technology can help provide a holistic picture on topics like the complete water cycle and the limited sources of fresh water. Having data visualizations and immersive experiences can make dry topics more compelling and engaging, and provide a solid foundation and context for having deep discussion around challenging abstract issues that we face as a society. He’s found that using immersive technologies like a digital planetarium can provide an experience to a large audience that is both very effective and compelling.


  • 0:00 – Intro – Curator of space science and working with digital planetariums and studying the effectiveness of using immersive dome technology to teach astronomy and for telling stories about planet earth and regional ecological issues
  • 0:39 – Effectiveness of fully, immersive dome for teaching astronomical principles compared to same visual content that’s projected onto a 2D wall as well as a control group with no visual content at all. For astronomical seasons, the immersive dome students had far superior results and if it’s projected onto a 2D wall, then those students did worse. Showing immersive visuals in a 2D screen, you get distortions and it’s a much inferior experience when compared to immersive visuals.
  • 2:19 – Other astronomical principles better describe in a dome. Seasons requires you to look around and be able to watch the objects move across the sky. Other results are not as straight forward when you don’t need visuals that move around you.
  • 3:06 – Sun rising and setting in different parts of the sky and able to show direction of rising and that it changes during the time of year and depending on where you life. You can even show how the sun rises and sets on Mars. Have the universe in their simulation and can travel through the entire universe and travel through time and at different viewpoints and perspectives to look at various issues, which is more effective
  • 4:38 – Lectures and dialogues about ecological issues on planet earth. Have Google Maps type of capability. Connect people to issues of global change and how to be a part of the solution
  • 5:37 – Other applications. 100% of California is under drought conditions. Help understand about water issues and where fresh water comes from. Fly around and show where water originates. Show them the water cycle process, rainfall and drought data, and connect them to global issues. Easier to show data in immersive dome environments than have someone just tell you about it in an abstract way.
  • 7:38 – Trying to come up with a model so that audiences can have a group discussion with experts talking about these global issues from water conservation to sustainable agriculture. Need to educate the public and do it in a compelling way, and visual storytelling is very powerful and compelling, it looms overhead and is much more effective and immersive. Having these discussions with immersive technologies laying the context and foundation for the discussion is a very power and effective approach.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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