National Geographic Presents Earth Explorers Augmented Reality!
On September 24th, 2013, Geomedia completed an augmented reality scavenger hunt at The Science Center of Iowa, in association with Global Entertainment Specialist’s “National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers” exhibit.
The exhibition follows National Geographic’s explorers as they venture into dangerous and remote parts of the world—including the deepest depths of the oceans, the North and South Poles, dense rain forests, mountains and caves.
In keeping with the “explorers” theme, there are compass shaped AR markers scattered through the exhibit that visitors have to track down and find on their own personal devices.
Once found, the markers will reveal an inside look at animals related to that part of the world. Additionally, finding a marker rewards the visitor with a trophy – a tool used by explorers in that part of the world to better explore their environment. After all the trophies have been collected, a final Earth Explorers special trophy is given out for completing the quest! You’ll have to visit the exhibit to experience this for yourself and see what’s in store.
On the technical side, the augmented reality pieces were created first in 3D by our animation and VFX team here at Geomedia. Animals were modeled, textured, rigged, and animated in Autodesk Softimage.
After a quick FBX export from Softimage, the animated creatures were pulled into Unity 3D for programming and interactive creation. Using some in house development tools we programmed all the functionality of the markers once they are recognized by our AR technology.
Additionally, all the trophies for finding each marker are fully represented in 3D space, and can be pinched, zoomed, swiped, and spun. Those were created similar to the 3D creatures, and imported in the same way. After some more programming and functionality for the achievement system, we were ready to publish our application.
On September 24th, our Director of Interactive – Jeremy Kenisky, flew up to Des Moines, Iowa to help open up the exhibit. The Science Center of Iowa, or SCI, is a really fantastic science and tech center built in downtown Des Moines. It has an IMAX theater and several great learning and fun-having spaces.
Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed was how well represented all of the AR markers and signage was. In a dark and theatrically lit museum exhibit, sometimes having well lit markers can be a challenge. The team at GES who setup the exhibit had already taken this into account and placed them in specific areas, and where necessary directed spot lights to them for added illumination. Pair that with our fantastic tracking technology that works exceptionally well in low light situations, and experiencing this part of the exhibit was no problem at all.
Additional markers were also scattered at various places in the exhibit, so should there be a crowd of people surrounding one, it was easy for people to move to another one. And, at least one of every unique marker had instructions on what it was, how to download the application, and what to do, which was incredibly helpful for people new to augmented reality. Overall the installation couldn’t have been better executed by GES, and we were happy to work with such great partners on the exhibit.
On the final day, some great folks from National Geographic stopped by the exhibit and were absolutely thrilled. The experiences, the interactives, the photography, and the information are all incredible and top notch. It’s no wonder they were impressed. The exhibit eventually moves on to other locations, potentially even reaching the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago sometime next year. There’s already plans to introduce some new updates and more features to the app over the next 6 months! Stay tuned!
Global Experience Specialists, Inc. (GES), a Viad Corp (NYSE: VVI) company, is a leading marketing agency that produces exhibitions, events, exhibits and retail environments. GES provides a wide range of services, including turnkey official show services, cutting-edge creative and design, marketing and measurement services—all with an unrivaled global reach. GES partners with leading shows and brands, including Spring Fair Birmingham, International Woodworking Fair, CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE, Bell Helicopter, Genzyme, L’Oreal, Warner Bros. and Simon Property Group. GES’ National Servicenter® has been recognized with certification under the J.D. Power and Associates Certified Call Center Program℠ for the past five years, and for the third year in a row Ad Age has named GES as one of the “World’s 50 Largest Agency Companies.” For more information, visit ges.com or the GES blog at defyingconvention.ges.com.
About National Geographic
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 450 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.