Dinosaurs in The Wild Splash Screen – Opens October 31 2014.
Visitors to “Dinosaurs in the Wild”, opening October 31st, will experience the stunning sights and sounds of life size animatronic dinosaurs, produced by our friends at The Dinosaur Company. Through our augmented reality application designed for the exhibit, visitors will be able to experience how these dinosaurs moved in very dynamic ways, as well as learn all kinds of interesting facts about these animals. In addition, visitors will be able to compare these dinosaurs to living species, and learn about evolutionary traits that they share!
An animatronic dinosaur looking into the harbour.
“Dinosaurs in the Wild!” represents Geomedia and Zoo-AR’s first installation in Australia, and our first installation outside of North America! Located just east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo is one of Sydney’s main attractions, with breathtaking views every single way you turn.
Almost 2 years ago, Geomedia released one of our first Augmented Reality exhibits at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. From there, our technology and the art behind it has come a long way! We’re excited to share some of the process of creating “Dinosaurs in the Wild” here with you!
Dilophosaurus low resolution geometry inside Mudbox before sculpting begins.
All of the dinosaur models and characters were created in house, most by Geomedia 3D modeler extraordinaire Leroy Carrillo. Painstaking reference and research was done to make sure that our 3D models used the very latest discoveries in paleontology.
Several levels of detail have been added and sculpting will soon be converted to normal maps for real time rendering.
After modeling low resolution geometry for each animal, the models were then taken into a 3D sculpting software for adding fine details like wrinkles, scales, and eventually textures.
A textured Dilophosaurus ready for animation and lighting inside the game engine!
We tried to use as much artistic license as possible without betraying any scientific accuracy. In choosing colors for the dinosaurs though, most of what we have to rely on is speculation and artistic interpretation.
A rig of a low resolution proxy Tyrannosaurus standing on top of a Diabloceratops.
After the low res models have been created, they are sent to our Animation Director, Jeff Stoyer for rigging and animation. To make the dinosaurs move according to how we’d like, the animators put rigs inside of them that allow them to puppet them almost like real puppets, although with much more accuracy and detail. These rigs include things like belly jiggles, muscle movements, and secondary animation likes ears, tails, skin sails, etc.
Rigging and texturing often happen simultaneously by different artists. Here a texture is applied to the Tyrannosaurus Rig.
A major consideration we made for all 3D objects being built for the game engine and real time renderer was to do our best to keep animation influence objects low and the rigs as simple as possible, while also keeping polycounts low and texture resolution moderate. This helps the animation play better on a variety of devices when they are trying to calculate real time rendering for things like color, normal, and specular maps all with real time lighting!
A render region of what Tyrannosaurus will start to look like inside the game engine.
Once the rig is setup, animation blocking is started to allow the animator to start to block out intensity and timing of the movements. We built many of these animations as loops for the game engine (using Unity 3D) so they can be controlled and replayed by the user in whatever way they want. Because of this, close interaction between our animators and our game programmers was very important.
Some rigging and animation progress inside Autodesk Softimage.
James Waits, one of our game programmers was responsible for making sure all the animations created in Softimage lined up once they were imported to Unity. Animations that might work for rendered graphics in broadcast would simply not play correctly or interactively if certain use cases were not taken into account.
A quick sketch of how we start to organize the application.
In addition to the general content development was the design of the software itself. Our Senior Software Engineer Yifan Yang masterminded the overall design of the application, as it also had to work for a variety of future venues, while remaining simple enough for us to change without major costs and time on our end. Eventually, this application may be rolled out to several Zoos simultaneously while still needing to operate as a “custom build” for each specific location. Using geolocation aware data we’re able to tell where someone is using the application and specifically target an experience to them based on that information. It’s a great way for us to customize and improve the user experience based on information that’s relevant to them. This is especially important when an application like this will be used in multiple countries!!
A version of the dinosaur collection system, allowing users to revisit dinosaur information once they’ve left the park.
We built a number of custom modules into the application that future locations can customize to their liking. This includes things like almanacs where more information can be accessed, quiz systems allowing them to compare current collections and animals to the dinosaurs, and adding custom information about their zoo including maps and ticketing information.
A map of Taronga Zoo showing the dinosaur animatronics and augmented reality locations.
Because of our location aware data, we’re also able to track a variety of behaviours anonymously between groups of users. We can see how many times different animals were viewed or accessed, what the average scores were on different animal quizzes, and how long it took different users to reach different areas of the park. All of this information is vital in improving the guest experience and letting us as developers better understand how our applications are being used and how to improve them for the future. This is just some of the data our development team is capturing with this application, but sorting through the data and being able to make really intelligent decisions with it is exciting!
Sydney as seen from Taronga Zoo grounds.
We’ll be making a visit to Taronga in early 2015 to have a look at the exhibit, at which point we’ll share some more information and pictures from the exhibit. Until then, feel free to download the application titled “DinosaurCo AR” in the iOS AppStore or on Google Play and use the marker below to get an idea of what you might expect from the experience!!
Point your device at this image after download the application to see the image come to life!
If you’d like any more information about our augmented reality products or the method we use to take these concepts from “crazy idea” to “real, viable product” give us a call. We’re always looking for opportunities to change the way people see and experience the world, and if you think your project fits that description we’re happy to explore with you.