Falcon’s Creative Group brings Augmented Reality Edutainment to Brevard Zoo.
Client: Brevard Zoo
Location: Melbourne, FL, United States
When people pass through the turnstiles at Brevard Zoo, they know they’re going to see “famous” animals such as jaguars, alligators, monkeys, pythons, bears, bald eagles, otters, meerkats, and so many other rock stars. But they also get excited about being introduced to other species for the first time. One of those is the pacu fish, a star in its own right because of the crucial role it plays in the Amazon’s ecosystem.
Brevard Zoo first considered providing an AR experience for their visitors after noticing a new audience coming through the turnstiles to play the mobile AR game, Pokémon™ Go. They realized that technology could be utilized to enhance the learning experience. That’s when they reached out to Falcon’s Creative Group to design and implement a turnkey AR experience.
The goal was to educate guests about one of nature’s most extraordinary events - the seasonal flooding of the rainforest and how pacu fish play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem by consuming and dispersing the seeds of nearby vegetation.
This enlightening and entertaining AR experience can be viewed within a new exhibit at Brevard Zoo called “Rainforest Revealed.” Before the exhibit was officially open, Falcon’s took a trip to the zoo to perform a 3D scan using depth cameras to create one-to-one scale occlusion volumes in the virtual environment to account for the various real-world trees and elements needed to interact in the same space as the AR content.
The content was then built using a complex hierarchy of real-time elements, such as rain and water systems as well as an artificial intelligence (AI) driven fish system, that would generate an ongoing lifelike simulation that reacts to other elements in the scene. The experience also includes real-time sound effects such as water rising and draining, pacus crunching seeds, and trees growing.
The AR experience was developed utilizing the Unity game engine that communicates with HTC Vive trackers and Lighthouse 2.0 cameras to generate 3D tracking data. The passthrough AR system integrates the real-time virtual content with a live video feed captured from a wireless tablet PC. The scenes from the tablet are wirelessly cast to a large monitor and speaker system for the visitors to enjoy.
During the presentation, one person controls a tablet PC, freely moving it to view fully dimensional AR content from any perspective within the live habitat where actual pacu fish are swimming. The presenter controls all events and elements, creating a customized experience for every group of visitors. Interesting facts about pacus are also revealed when the presenter moves over various info-beacons within the virtual environment.
Falcon’s is thrilled to have developed and launched Brevard Zoo’s first augmented reality experience that will help families connect to nature in a new and visually dynamic fashion. An added bonus is being part of an effort that reinforces how processes like this one are so vital to the world’s fragile ecosystems. This edutainment offering also underscores the fact that you don’t need to be a well-known celebrity or boast millions of followers on social media to make a positive impact in the world. We’re all in this together, and we all have a significant role to play.