Compass: A concept for Google Glass and the Bronx Zoo



Concept / Professional


Knowl Baek, Keta Patel, Steven Bennett, Kuan Yi Chou, Alexa Curtis, Philip Kim, Kaoru Kumantani, Anne Aretz


The goal of this project was to explore the ways in which wearable technology like Google Glass can enhance everyday experiences. We decided to focus on the visitor experience at the Bronx Zoo. With Compass, we strove to minimize user interaction with the device itself and allow visitors to focus on the world around them. We believe that nothing should stand in the way of a zoo visitor and the incredible, enriching content found in the zoo. Compass would help visitors navigate to zoo exhibits and upon arriving at an exhibit Compass is designed to support exploration and learning, helping visitors to learn as little or as much as they like about animals and their environments. We recognized the desire for visitors to create and curate lasting memories with the people around them. We designed Compass to be supportive of these types of interactions, and to capture moments digitally when appropriate.

In our approach we’re designing with Glass for a very specific context. We’ve designed a service that contributes to a real world experience. In a society that may be skeptical of this new technology, Compass aims to give the public access to the Glass platform with limited commitment.


In our early research, we spoke to zoo visitors, staff, budding zoologists and conservationists and conducted our own observations at the zoo. We focused our design efforts on the group experience for a family or group of friends who see a trip to the zoo as an escape from everyday life, a means to strengthen their relationships, or create new memories.

When at the zoo, visitors care about seeing the animals, learning, and making memories. The experience is often nostalgic, but navigating the park in the moment, with a group, can be stressful. By operating with limited user input, Compass allows visitors to focus their attention on the exhibits in the zoo and the people closest to them. Compass leverages the power of an always on, always listening device and encourages visitors to ask questions about animals as if they were speaking directly to an expert. Asking questions is a natural behavior that we observed in action within the exhibits in our field research, and Compass supports this behavior with little-to-no manual interactions for the park visitor.

With this new way platform, we aim to attract the next, digital-first generation of visitors to the Bronx Zoo.


The biggest challenge in this project was transitioning Google Glass, which has been criticized as being an isolated and individual experience, into one that can enrich social and environmental interactions. By introducing Glass to an environment like the Bronx Zoo, we’ve created an opportunity for Google to improve the social perception of Glass from an isolated experience to one that enhances social interaction. We believe a partnership with an organization such as the Bronx Zoo would be a welcome chance for Google expand the exposure to Glass as well an opportunity for the Bronx Zoo to embrace a digital future.


When we began this project it was crucial to understand the wants and needs of both the zoo visitor and the Bronx Zoo. Our early research included observations at the Bronx Zoo and interviews with visitors, zoo staff, conservationists, and aspiring zoologists. From these conversations, we formulated two overarching objectives: education and relationships. In our first visit to the zoo we stumbled upon this quote by Baba Dioum carved into stone outside of an exhibit,

“In the end,
we will conserve only what we love,
we will love only what we understand,
we will understand only what we are taught.”

The poem was pervasive in our ideation from that point on. We strove to glorify the intrinsic beauty of animals above all else, and use Glass as a way to foster human-animal relationships in an attempt to inspire passion in zoo visitors. When we interviewed one of the zoo’s exhibit designers, we were inspired to adjust our design principles and consider human-human relationships as much as human-animal relationships. Our final product reflects these two ideologies.


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