Falcon’s Creative Group creates AR experience for Brevard Zoo

Falcon’s Creative Group, the entertainment design firm, has created a new AR edutainment experience for Florida’s Brevard Zoo.

Falcon’s Creative Group is proud to announce that it has designed and implemented a turnkey augmented reality (AR) experience for Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida.

The edutainment experience is part of the zoo’s Rainforest Revealed exhibit. It explores the seasonal flooding of the rainforest as well as how the pacu fish plays a key role in the ecosystem.

Edutainment

“We chose to create an AR experience for this particular exhibit because we wanted to tell the story of why the flooded forest is so important. Now visitors can better understand the whole process that is so vital for this ecosystem,” says Andrea Hill, marketing and communications director at Brevard Zoo.

The experience shows the process of forest flooding and seed dispersal, revealing dozens of animated pacu fish as the water begins to rise. Seeds from nearby vegetation fall into the water, where the fish eat them and then pass them. These seeds can then grow into new plants, once the floodwaters recede.

A presenter from the zoo freely moves a tablet PC, changing perspectives of fully dimensional AR content as it if were integrated within the habitat. This presenter is able to control the timing of all events and elements to create a new, personalised experience for each group of guests.

There are also hidden facts which can be revealed by seeking info-beacons in the virtual environment. As the presenter is the only person to touch the tablet, the experience is also hygienic and safe.

Cutting-edge technology

“It was important to us that the experience could be adaptively controlled so that each presenter can add their own personal touch,” says Jason Ambler, vice president of Digital Media at Falcon’s Creative Group.

“There were many advanced techniques and cutting-edge technologies utilized behind the scenes for us to be able to achieve that level of flexibility, along with successfully integrating the virtual AR content into the real world.”

The Falcon’s team visited the habitat while it was being constructed, and scanned the whole area to create a 3D representation. The interactive content uses a complex hierarchy of real-time elements, for example, rain and water systems. There is also an AI-driven fish system that provides a lifelike simulation, able to react with other elements in the scene.

In addition to this, the team added real-time sound effects. For instance, sounds of water rising and draining away, pacu fish munching and trees growing.

The edutainment experience was created using the Unity game engine, communicating with HTC Vive trackers and Lighthouse 2.0 cameras to generate 3D tracking data. The system brings together real-time virtual content with live video from a wireless tablet PC. The AR experience is then cast wirelessly from the tablet to appear on a large screen and through the speaker system.

The zoo approached Falcon’s Creative Group after witnessing the popularity of the Pokemon Go AR mobile game. “We are super impressed with the thoughtfulness that Falcon’s put into the project, and we appreciate them staying within budget, which for us, a not-for-profit organization, is a big deal,” says Hill.

“We love working with zoos and aquariums to enhance their natural experiences and wildlife encounters by creating new opportunities for storytelling and edutainment,” says Ambler. “With the right design solution, audiences can more deeply connect and engage with their experiences like never before.”

Earlier this month, the company announced that the National Geographic Museum exhibition, Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall, was recognised in the American Alliance of Museums’ Annual Excellence in Exhibition Competition.