Shuddering, bucking, bouncing over ruts and sloshing through water, the driver and photographer in the big Dodge Durango move freely across the Serengeti Plains, camera clicking as they follow their own unique trail in pursuit of African game. “Over there, follow the cheetah, ” decides the photographer and the driver slews the vehicle off the road and across the grassy plain, whacking a boulder or two along the way. Their mission: to photograph the amazing animals and beautiful landscape for a fictional conservation newsletter, learn about animals and enjoy a wild ride.
Africa? No, but perhaps the next best thing!
Dodge Wild Earth at the Philadelphia Zoo, an interactive motion-based simulator ride, allows two players to navigate stunning landscapes in pursuit of wild game and action photographs. Information is provided along the way by their virtual guides, “Sarah N. Getty” and “Dr. Ron N. Wilde.” As the players photograph wildlife, their own images become woven into a full color souvenir newsletter, which is printed out at the end of their safari. The newsletter is a lasting reminder of the experience, blending educational content with entertainment and helping to stimulate repeat visits.
Simulated adventures in mock vehicles are common enough – they trickled down from military and industrial applications into entertainment decades ago. They can also be found in science museums and retail centers. Usually, they follow a pre-determined, scripted program. But Dodge Wild Earth represents a significant departure in its ability to provide real-time responsiveness that lets users suspend disbelief, takes interactivity to a new level and doesn’t run to a military-sized budget. It’s not a simulator ride per se – it’s an experience that makes use of motion-base and digital imaging technology to transport guests to another place and time. Video gamers will take to it readily – and the only thing they shoot here is a camera. Dodge Wild Earth offers a model for new, educational and entertaining attractions.
Wild Earth provides a robust, interactive environment where guests are uniquely in control. The virtual safari goers don’t just see the action, they control and feel it, making decisions about where they go, how fast, and what they follow and photograph throughout the experience. EntCo’s XSpeed motion platform and the high resolution, real-time 3-D projection screens (presented as vehicle windows) are linked in real-time to the Durango’s driving and camera controls, to provide physiologically accurate motions and sensations. The software and show control systems allow them to fully enjoy their story-based adventure. With multiple story variations and almost infinite driving options, guests are motivated to keep coming back. ” Says Philadelphia Zoo Vice President of Education Ron Fricke, “There’s a wild adventure in every direction.”
This article first apeared in the 12th Annual Themed Entertainment Association‘s THEA Awards program and is reprinted here with kind permission.