Welcome to the Ultimate Explorer
From thought-provoking television to captivating documentaries, National Geographic has provided us with fun and educational content for nearly 20 years. Nat Geo’s non-fiction content includes nature, science, culture, and history and they wanted to create an experience that was unlike anything they’ve created before. As a result, we teamed up with iP2 Entertainment to create interactive content for a series of fun and immersive entertainment attractions that would connect guests with an educational experience themed around National Geographic’s iconic brand.
Numerous attractions found within these parks invite users to explore biospheres, volcanoes, and even race against the fastest animals in the world. The team at iP2 wanted a deeper interactive engagement for some of these attractions. We were asked to create the interactive park maps, interactive leaderboards for two racing attractions, and an interactive user passport experience that linked up to everything within the park.
Every theme park needs a good map. It is a key component in the overall experience. These interactive maps are displayed on large screens outside of the park for visitors who want to see what awaits them through the gate. As opposed to a map only found inside, this map functions as an attraction in itself, as well as a way-finding device for park visitors. They can tap into any attraction for more information by utilizing a touch display. We created animations to entice curious park goers by playing up the content for each attraction in the park. The low-poly and colorful aesthetic worked well stylistically for the park. We made it look bright and fun so it can serve as motivation for everyone to come to explore the park.
We built this map as a real-time rendered app which allowed us the advantage of programming interaction that would seamlessly transition with the user’s taps. This approach enabled us to create alternate language overlays and attraction changes without massive pre-rendered packages. We knew there were going to be more parks built in China and Mexico so when the time came to build those maps, the pipeline once again proved invaluable for quick updates and modifications.
Racing against a cheetah sounds like a race we’re going to lose, but racing against a swimming sea turtle? Turns out, those dudes are fast! Next up; a sloth. I think we can take him.
One of the attractions found within the park has visitors racing against real animals, just, not physically there. That would be dangerous. The Safari Speedway is one of the most active attractions within the park and we were tasked to develop its interactive leaderboard. Race contestants check in, race virtual animals on a real track, and view their posted results on an overhead screen. Turning again to Unity, we built a leaderboard system that would be inherently flexible. Names, images, times, and transitions all had to be swapped and changed per race, much like building a practical leaderboard.
The API integration between the physical race and the display of our virtual content was critical in the recording of this experience. Each visitor is given a wristband that records all of their activity within the park. Integrating that data into this system allowed us to display their character’s name and record their race time for their own records.
Unearthing ancient Aztec secrets is kind of our thing. Doing it while being timed? This might take a professional. Luckily, these new tombs have interactive leaderboards in them so you can work on trimming down your best.
Tomb of the Ancients
The Tomb of the Ancients is another tracking-based attraction within that park where visitors complete an obstacle course trying to collect special items as quickly as they can. We designed and created an interactive scoreboard that was shown at the entrance and exit of the attraction. These scoreboards had idle animations that would periodically show high scores and recent scores as well as current race standings.
API integration was another critical element for a functioning scoreboard within the Tomb. When visitors swipe their wristbands at the entrance, everything from their race time to collected items are tracked and displayed within the park. We created our system to work in conjunction with the API as it is modified by users’ interactions with the attraction.
When you’ve racked up enough badges to shame even the most prolific scout, you can head straight to a field station for collection and review. We designed these interactive stations to work both in and out of the park so you can show off that Entomologist badge on the go!
On top of all this, we helped develop the passbook app that visitors could use in the park to keep track of where they went, their badges, and even pictures they took. There are hundreds of badges and unlockable achievements all over the park so having a concise way to access them was at the heart of the Field Journal. This passbook is accessible at stations around the park, as well as online once visitors have left the park. When you’ve racked up enough badges to shame even the most prolific scout, you can head straight to a field station for collection and review. We designed these interactive stations to work both in and out of the park so you can show off your Entomologist badge on the go!
Within the park, the passbook is displayed within styled cases and our design closely reflects these elements of black metal and paper. Outside the park, visitors access their journal online where we mirrored similar styles in a much more streamlined (and mobile-friendly) approach. After spending an entire day exploring all of the incredibly detailed attractions within the park, the Field Journal really does become a natural extension for visitors to take home. Who wouldn’t want to show off all those badges they earned?
As partners of National Geographic and iP2, we set out to create something special with these parks. By utilizing empty mall space and new technology, we embraced our rapidly connecting culture and turned it into the Ultimate Explorer experience. We love taking on challenging projects like this, plus, who doesn’t love a good theme park?