After five years, and more than $305 million, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami opened its doors to the public in early May this year. Setting a new standard for museums and aquariums around the globe, the centre features a massive suspended 1.9 million litre aquarium tank – holding sharks, turtles and a host of other sea creatures – as well as a state of the art planetarium. The museum has many other attractions such as exhibits on the evolution of flight from dinosaurs to jet fighters, and several high-tech experiences such as a virtual reality shark hunt and two large interactive projection rooms design Formula D interactive, a South African company.
Tendering against intense competition from 15 interactive design companies around the world, Formula D interactive was selected to design some of the flagship experiences for the museum.
“Working for a museum with a big vision like the Frost Museum was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our team to truly push the boundaries of what our technology could do to provide a fun and memorable learning experience,” Michael Wolf, CEO of Formula D interactive explains. “The expectation was of designing ground-breaking interactive experiences and we rose to the challenge, creating something wonderful.
The Virtual Gulf Stream Aquarium was the first of the two large-scale exhibits and is made up of an interactive wall projection that provides visitors with an unforgettable walk-through experience of the Gulf Stream and its life-sized aquatic inhabitants. The 18-metre long and over 3-metre high projection environment with motion tracking technology allows visitors to interact with the animated sea creatures, putting their hands on the wall and seeing the rarely glimpsed creatures of those waters react to their gestures. Thousands of virtual sardines amongst many other creatures display realistic and ever changing schooling behaviours based on computer algorithms devised by the software developers at Formula D.
The interactive River of Grass tunnel is a large room stuffed from floor to ceiling with technology to give kids and parents the experience of a fully animated interactive day in the everglades, Florida’s precious wetland area. Using a total of 16 high definition projectors, directional audio and 7 networked motion tracking sensors, visitors become part of a life-sized immersive video game as they move about to play with a host of different animals. Targeted at preschool children, visitors can chase the otter, swat mosquitos, and dam up rivers with artificial logs. And when night falls they search for the elusive Florida panther using virtual torches.
The Shark Senses exhibit on level 3 of the museum is yet another innovation by Formula D that lets visitors dive into the experience of hunting as a shark. Using virtual reality technology, visitors are immersed in an interactive environment which provides audio, visual and sensory feedback that guides the experience and educate users on the senses sharks use to find their prey underwater. The Shark Senses exhibit won the Red Dot Design Award for User Experience Design in 2016.
“The goal with every exhibit and attraction that we create is to inspire learning,” Michael Wolf explains. “We are passionate about ensuring knowledge is shared in a fun and engaging way so that all visitors, young and old, walk away thoughtful and inspired and maybe even adjust their behaviour. This is one way to have a positive impact on the world we inhabit – something we endeavour to do with every attraction we build.”
After completing the installations and attending the opening ceremony for the museum, Formula D interactive are looking forward to continue offering their services to centres in the United States and other museums and aquariums around the globe.
“We believe that we offer great value to our international clients. With many years of experience in designing interactive exhibits for museums in South Africa, Africa and the Middle East, we are now more than ready to expand our ventures into other parts of the world.” says Wolf.