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The Futurist

David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive

Engaging iPad apps, David Attenborough documentaries and museums, throw in some raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and you’ll have a list of some of my favourite things. So seldom it is that so many of my favourite things converge that when they do I feel compelled to write about it.

David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive is an achievement of cross platform entertainment. Not only is it a TV special hosted by Sir David Attenborough, it is also an iPad app and an in-museum experience. This is one franchise that is hitting all of the targets.

In the TV special David Attenborough, the uncontrollable scamp that he is, hides from the security guard and spends the night exploring the Natural History Museum in London. In an experience reminiscent of “Night at the Museum”, Attenborough visits exhibits throughout the museum and witnesses them coming to life before his eyes. As they do, Attenborough explains how these animals moved and interacted with each other and other animals.

The iPad app is designed as both a documentary in itself, or as a “second screen” through which you can follow Attenborough around the museum. Each stop on Attenborough’s route is replicated in the app, with the user being able to switch to “night mode” and use their flashlight to discover the animals coming to life. The app also features extra behind the scenes content that can only be unlocked by finding symbols displayed near the exhibits in the museum.

For me the benefit of such an interactive and engaging app came through being able to follow along while watching the documentary. As Attenborough explored the museum in the documentary I explored it on my iPad. This kept me engaged with the content and helped me to avoid the fidgeting distractions I usually experience while watching TV.

A study through BBC World News last year found that of more than 3,600 digital device owners most of them say they use tablets alongside their TV. A Deloitte survey also found that 24% of people (in the UK at least) use “second screens” while watching TV. I am definitely one of those people, and often get whinged at for not paying attention. For me the opportunity to play along on my iPad while still experiencing the documentary was brilliant.

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