Case Studies

WHAT A STUNNER!

New jellyfish exhibit takes visitor interactivity to new levels.

Story: Christopher Holder

Who’d have thought jellyfish could be quite so mesmerising? 

These sea-going invertebrates get a bad rap in Australia, on account of their handy knack of paralysing people. But that’s just the box jellyfish and the man o’ war. There are plenty of loveable, non-lethal jellyfish to get to know, and Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is doing it best to introduce them to the wider public with a stunning (sorry) new exhibition, called Ocean Invaders.

Making the new exhibit happen is Interactivity.

GO FISH

Interactivity is a regular to these pages, distinguishing itself as unique provider of interactive technology solutions (including animations and media) along with low-tech theming and fabrication. You might say that Interactivity’s history, working primarily in public-space kids’ interactive play areas, has all been leading up to this monumental project.

Interactivity not only provided the touch-tech solutions for Ocean Invaders, it took care of everything from the commissioning of the neon signage, the ocean theming (including UV-activated graphics), the lighting, the plasma Edison screens (more on these later), the video interviews and more.

CHUCK A WOBBLY

DigitalSignage met with Interactivity’s Technical Manager, Maddi Goricane, a few hours prior the launch party. Speaking of stunned, Maddi could hardly believe the months of work was finally to be revealed to the public. After weeks of round-the-clock work on-site, Maddi was attached to the exhibits… blue blubbers, lion’s mane, tiger sea nettle, moon… every species of jellyfish was her favourite!

It was Interactivity’s job to ensure those jellyfish remained the stars of the show. But to also provide hands-on enjoyment and information to the visitors.

SCHOOLED

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is part of a larger group that encompasses the likes of the London aquarium, and expectations for Ocean Invaders was high. The Ocean Invaders exhibition needed to be utterly world class and has proven to be so. Visitor numbers are high and Ocean Invaders was an instant school holidays hit, and will no doubt be a crowd favourite for years to come.

COLOUR & MOVEMENT 

The Invaders Art Aquarium and interactive wall provides a pitstop for kids at the end of the exhibit, before they head into the back end of the aquarium. Interactivity has mounted touchscreens on the side walls for kids to colour in their favourite jellyfish, and are then invited to take a selfie and submit their creation to the giant interactive wall. Some serious data crunching and network switching ensures the submission is displayed on the interactive wall in around 30 seconds. Naturally the child is lured to the interactive display, powered by three high-brightness Epson laser projectors, where the infrared sensors trigger movement in the content. The floor in front of the sea life interactive projection screen is also interactive — with bio luminescent colour chasing kids’ every move. Again, this is Interactivity’s sweetspot but the animations, and the integration of media from the art kiosks is next level.

IDEA INCUBATOR 

The Jellyfish Lab not only serves as an incubator but also as a laboratory for marine biologists to get to know their subjects in more intimate ways. Interactivity conducted video interviews with staff to provide informational content for the lab’s touch tablets. The handheld earpieces are a museum staple sourced from a Berlin-based supplier.

STING IN THE TALE 

The Stinger Wall is a non-lethal means by which visitors can better get to know some of planet Earth’s most deadly creatures, such as the man o’ war and box jellyfish. The key interactive tech offering is what Maddi Goricane calls a flat Edison globe.

Maddi and her team researched how to turn a stripped back plasma display into an interactive Edison panel. Only some 5V are applied to the back of the display, so this isn’t hair-raising stuff, but the visual impact is certainly effective, especially when combined with some Tesla cage-style electrical sound effects.

FLOORED BY FISH 

Interactivity’s stock ’n’ trade is an interactive projection display combining house-generated animations with a infra-red camera for multi-point interactive play. In this case the screen is on the floor covered in perspex; while the ultra short throw Epson projector is under the floor. The display covers the threshold between two parts of the exhibit; a cool, interactive wayfinding device.

BUILT LIKE A TANK 

Two jellyfish tanks feature a rear-projected backdrop. The display at the back of the tank provide interactive content. The visitor on one tank can raise the temperature of the ocean to see what that does to the jellyfish numbers. The other tank’s backdrop introduces jellyfish predators — sunfish and turtles — in response to visitor interaction with the attendant touch tablet. Interactivity ensured the content wasn’t going to freak out the real-life jelly fish in the tank, or heat from the Epson rear projectors wasn’t going to impact the creatures (no problems, the Epson laser projectors run remarkably cool). Jellyfish don’t have a brain, as such, and remain cheerfully unfazed by all the staring, glass-tapping or animations.

STAYING IN TOUCH 

The touch tablets are the same as what Interactivity has provided the rest of the aquarium. They’re comparatively compact, something Maddi Goricane prefers: “when you’re interacting with children, especially, you don’t want or need a 55-inch display, there are no advantages. A smaller screen is more approachable.”

Each touch tablet can display information on any number of the featured jellyfish (up to 12 species) along with some wayfinding. The UI was heavily test driven for ease of use as well as robustness.