As the creative director of Nogginaut, a Chicago-based interactive design firm, the 1995 graduate often works with designers, artists and programmers around the world to create installations for museums and public spaces that use sensors and video game technologies.
For example, he helped create a virtual aquarium for Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, a $60-million interactive museum. The exhibit allows the user to change different water quality settings, such as pH, temperature, salt and turbidity, to see how they affect the environment and fish.
He also created a pit crew game at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., where visitors act as the pit crew during a race. Four tools hang in front of a 15-foot-wide screen. When a car appears on screen, the crew reacts by performing random tasks such as removing the tires with a ratchet gun that vibrates when you press the trigger or filling the gas tank with a fuel can. “We use infrared lasers in the tools to detect where someone is pointing the physical tool at the screen,” O’Dell says.
O’Dell refined his design skills at Indiana University where he earned a master’s degree in immersive mediated environments. His thesis project—a prototype for an interactive museum exhibit called Digger McGoo’s Fossil Hunt—caught the attention of Nogginaut’s CEO. O’Dell also creates installations for trade shows and consults with companies on how they can present information to the public in novel ways.
“What I do isn’t necessarily high tech,” O’Dell says. “It’s interaction design—the way people interact with the object and spaces and systems around them. That could be anything from a web site to a museum exhibit or a restaurant or a retail store.”