Friday, April 4, 2008
" The Future is wild " attraction introduce for the first time the amazing " augmented reality " technology on a ride !
Last saturday the Futuroscope theme park, in France, had its big press event for two of the new attractions, and today i will talk about the "Future is wild" ride.
First, i must say that i was invited but unfortunately couldn't attend the event.
So what you will read below is not from my own experience of the ride and its new technology, but what i understood of it and comments that i had from people who were there. And of course, you will see plenty of photos and two videos, as usual.
The Future is wild can be described as a ride, as guests board on a moving platform going through different kind of decors. But don't expect to find hundred of audio-animatronics as there is nobody in the decors! The french title of the attraction is "The Animals of the future" and it helps to better understand what is going on. The decor is supposed to be the "present", and thanks to the "augmented reality" technology - and with the help of binoculars and sensor bracelets for each guest - they will "see" what kind of animals will live inside these decors in the "future".
A little description from the press release, now: "Once they pass through the doors of the brand new theatre and its depiction of evolution, visitors enter first a futuristic laboratory which gives them a foretaste of the journey ahead prior to boarding. On screen, a TV presenter explains how our planet might evolve, how evolution works, and describes the strange creatures that visitors will be seeing: the massive ganetwhale seabird with its 10-ft-long wingspan; the amazing rattleback rodent coated in protective scales; the reef glider, which is descended from sea slugs; and the little poggle in its thick coat of fur.
During the ride, each guest climb aboard the expedition vehicles with their augmented-reality binoculars and sensor bracelets for a journey through the realistic scenery which portrays a series of possible future environments forged and moulded by climate change and movements of the Earth’s crust. As they travel the four zones – across the dry, cold desert, through the swamp valley, along the bed of the vast global ocean and the floor of the tropical rainforest – the visitors watch as
animals that could be inhabiting the planet in 5 million, 100 million or 200 million
years from now burst into view in 3D, and then spring into action when they reach out to touch and interact with them. Reality and virtual reality combine to
blur the boundaries that separate them."
Okay, so how does this "augmented reality" works? As you've probably already understood, the "augmented reality" create virtual images that appear in an "empty" decor - except, of course, the rocks, plants, etc...Each visitor’s exact position is tracked by the onboard augmented reality system, so they can interact, communicate and play in real time with the "virtual" creatures created for the attraction. In two words: if you look at the decor during the ride without the binoculars, the decor looks empty. If you look at it through the binoculars animals magically appear in the decor and even interact with you. The two pictures below show the principle.
More explanations from the press release : "Augmented reality is a means of controlling virtual 3D objects within a real environment. A camera integrated into the visitors’ binoculars films the backdrop of each sequence in front of them. A computer then adds the virtual 3D animals to the film in real time.
The filmed sequence and the added creatures are immediately transmitted back on to the binocular viewing screens, giving visitors the vivid impression that they are watching real-life action. The motion sensor system lets them interact directly with the animals.
The result of this perfect blend of reality and virtuality, added to the real-time
interaction with the filmed scenes, is to expand the viewers’ perception of reality:
the result is augmented reality. This ground-breaking process allows us to unite the real world and the virtual world and to immerse viewers in totally new experiences.
Augmented reality obeys three criteria: it combines the real world and the virtual
world, it is interactive in real time, and it is calibrated in 3D.
Augmented-reality technology removes the need for an interface between viewer and image. No more need for a screen. The technology totally re-examines the role of the viewer, immersing him in a concocted environment of reality and virtuality.
By importing virtual 3D and animated objects, augmented reality alters our
perception of the real world. We move from being spectators watching
images to participants, interacting directly and in real time with these
creatures that have been seamlessly assimilated into our environment.
To achieve this, visitors are provided with binoculars and sensor bracelets that communicate with the augmented-reality system in their carriage. The binoculars
project images that are not there: animals that could well have evolved to inhabit the Earth millions of years from now. The sensor bracelet brings the animals to life. This equipment is the conduit for an “augmented” reality.
The perspective of the animated virtual creatures matches real-world perspective. The animals blend in seamlessly with the real-world images in the viewers’ eyes. The illusion that both worlds are co-existing is whole, with viewers unable to distinguish between real objects and virtual objects."
Looks interesting, if not amazing, doesn't it? Some could ask what is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality? Here is the answer: "In virtual reality, the real world is computer generated to create an imaginary environment. The user is immersed in this imaginary world and so totally cut off from the real world.
In augmented reality, the user remains in contact with the real world while a computer generates virtual objects in 3D that are superimposed on to the real environment and with which users can interact in real time. In other words, augmented reality enhances the real world but does not replace it."
As i hate to talk about something that i've not experienced myself, i will try to don't make any comments, but it seems to me that what makes the ride principle interesting is to see the decor empty and then through the binoculars the virtual animals, etc...which means that you have to put the binoculars and take them off, and put them again, and so forth...and i'm ready to bet that most of the guests won't do it, that they will keep the binoculars from the beginning to the end of the ride.
So the question is: what's the point to have a moving vehicle inside decors if you don't enjoy them directly ? Do you see what i mean? The big difference with a ride like, for instance, Toy Story Mania, is that in TSM guests will enjoy both the decor AND virtual images that pops out of it at the same time.
So, and although i think that this "augmented-reality" technology looks impressive - and i will be very happy to try it - my first feelings is that i'm not totally convinced...If anyone of you did the ride recently, please let us know what you think about it in the comments.
And now, let's have a closer look with two videos. This first one is a promo video from the futuroscope. As you will see, the real decors are not as immersing as it seems to be on the press pictures above which are obviously "cheating" a bit...and even a lot.
The next one was shot during the event. If you don't speak french, skip the first part which is a conference explaining how the augmented reality technology works, unfortunately only in french, and go to the second part where you'll see images of the ride.
Next time i will talk about the other new attraction - a small "B" ticket inspired by the universe of legendary comic book artist Moebius.
Photos and videos: copyright Futuroscope. ©F. Juille - ©The Future is Wild Limited/Pictural Charts Educational Trust/Studio Ludo/Artefacto/Getty Images.