Sparkling Sea – Interactive – AMNH 2012

Sparkling Sea – Interactive – AMNH 2012

Sparkling Sea – Interactive – AMNH 2012

The one in the photo is me, playing with our “Sparkling Sea” Interactive – a digital “lagoon” that allows visitors to activate bioluminescent dinoflagelates like those found in tropical beaches. I can play with this for hours.

A trip to Puerto Rico inspired this concept. I visited a bioluminescent lagoon years ago and swam with these magical creatures. Dinoflagelates, microscopic algae, glow in the dark creating waves of bioluminescence when the waters move. To get to them at night, you must kayak for half an hour between mangrove forests. A salty lagoon awaits for your arrival, with its pristine and quiet black waters. It is a little overwhelming to jump into that darkness, but the magic of the dinoflagelates warms your heart. The microorganisms glow when you move, creating a current of light around your body. It is quite magical.

We tried to replicate the experience digitally by creating a projected lagoon where “dinoflagelates” reacted to your presence. The goal was not only to be able to replicate the experience as closely to the original, but to support the feeling of immersion that we were applying to the overall show. It has also been a strategical decision to marry interaction and space, blurring the line between the real and the digital worlds. This is one of my main strategies as a creative director. To blend worlds.

To accomplish some degree of scientific accuracy, we worked with our animal husbandry colleague Hazel Davies. She had succeeded at reproducing dinoflagelates in captivity, by breeding them in a dark basement of the museum. Cameron and I visited Hazel’s colonies several times and shook them gently to analyze their spark, the color of their light, the intensity of their shine and the way they reacted to movement.

The concept was brought up to life by Cameron Browning, our fantastic technologist, using optical flow technology combined with a double infrared/camera/projection/back-end/front-end system. Finally, the lagoon was bathed with a musical symphony, specially composed by Tom Phillips to induce visitors to dance. I have seen stiff people loosing it in this interactive. They seem to let their inner-child out. It is almost like the real experience. Closer if you roll on the floor.

American Museum of Natural History, 2012
“Creatures of Light” Exhibition
Computer vision Full body interactive
Helene Alonso, Cameron Browning, Hazel Davis, Tom Phillips

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