For half a century, Dame Jane Goodall has been changing how we see humankind and our nearly-human neighbors, the chimpanzees. Now, an AR experience by Falcon’s Creative Group for the National Geographic Association in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute is changing how we see her.
The National Geographic Museum is located in Washington DC. This concrete jungle is a far cry from Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park where Goodall studied chimpanzees.
To help bring visitors into that world, NGM called on Florida-based Falcon’s Creative Group. The two organizations worked together previously on AR experiences based on ancient Egypt and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Most VR and AR experiences, including those at most museums, use headsets, mobile phones, or tablets. FCG created these experiences, as well as more fantastical ones, through combining footage, computer-generated images, and the physical environment.
The AR Experience
The ambitious exhibit, Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall consists of six separate AR experiences, located in a 3D theater. FCG’s telltale combination of CGI and film, shot with a 360-degree camera, is then projected on walls, ceiling, and floor.
“Our mission with this legacy exhibition is to celebrate the extraordinary life and work of Jane Goodall, exploring her early years, her fascinating studies in Gombe, and her current environmental advocacy,” National Geographic Vice President of Creative, Alan Parente, said in a press release. “With Falcon’s Creative Group, we have created engaging multimedia and interactive, hands-on experiences that will enhance the storytelling. Jane used unorthodox approaches to study chimpanzees, yielding extraordinary results. In a way, we’ve done the same thing with this exhibition.”
One of the exhibits also includes a hologram of Goodall herself. Her life-sized image, projected on the model, creates the illusion that Dr. Goodall is in the room with you. Throughout the experiences, audio helps to take visitors on their journey.
“Our creative intent is to invoke feelings of actually traveling with Jane in Gombe Stream National Park as she made history,” Falcon’s Digital Media Vice President and Executive Producer Jason Ambler said in the release. Though they used a couple of different technologies, Ambler emphasizes that “the focus is on immersing visitors in Jane’s personal experiences and leaving them with a deeper appreciation and understanding of chimpanzees and their relationship to humans.”
The hardliner might question whether this is really an AR experience. It’s advanced sound and light design, but is it augmented reality?
Cue – Falcon’s Vision.
Falcon’s Vision is an AR headset that FCG designed specifically for use by its clients. The lightweight headset can be held by a strap or by hand, as it is in the Becoming Jane AR experience. It has a customizable exterior and a removable faceplate for cleaning.
Visitors use these headsets, launched together with the Becoming Jane AR experience, as binoculars. Through the headset, visitors look for specific targets in their surroundings, which trigger special experiences.
AR in Art and Education
Falcon’s AR experience is one-of-a-kind but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, it’s part of some pretty exciting trends. Just last month, ARPost reported on an AR exhibit in the Perot Museum. The idea of using light and sound to create an unreal experience was also used in the Unreal Garden this summer.
While these are all location-based experiences, they all mark a significant trend toward using XR as outreach. Incorporation in art and education helps to move XR from science fiction and fad into the mainstream.
Photo credit: All photos by Rebecca Hale/National Geographic for “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall” exhibition organized by National Geographic and the Jane Goodall Institute.