CEO of Holovis on future of visitor attraction market

Holovis’s Stuart Hetherington talks to Tim Kridel about why the immersive experience integrator has a dedicated media design team and where he sees the visitor attraction market heading.

SH: Holovis Media is currently a 40 strong team specialising in gaming, CGI, real-time, animation and character-driven story-telling, making us the largest attraction design studio in the UK. 

We made the strategic decision to harness the power of an in-house media team as it allows us to provide complete turnkey solutions, successfully integrating media and IDR motion based capabilities into a seamlessly delivered experience. By having the content design team this involved from the initial stage of a project (working with our own, or 3rd party IP) , we are able to lead with creative story telling that informs the final experiential design, making sure the riders are at the heart of the story, immersed and engaged throughout. This is better than having to insert unoptimised, compromised media SFX effects, added last, to try to join it all together. Theme park customers are spending a lot of money on this type of attraction and deserve something better – that’s what Holovis can deliver with its total attraction, turn-key approach.

The new attraction frontier is VR/AR storytelling, which is why within the Media team we have a cell of VR/AR content specialists who are creating a step-change with immersive, multi-point narratives, creating a rich, Mixed Reality (MR) environment where VR and AR dynamically combine in real-time – guests have never had an experience like this before!  MR allows the user to move freely and safely in an amazingly realistic virtual space, whilst integrating with real world objects that appear to have a life of their own. What’s real and what’s imagined become a highly realistic,  unique player environment combining projection mapping, actual show sets, digital assets, spatial audio and SFX, all blended perfectly together using the Holovis proprietary In-Mo middleware technology. This level of MR immersion is truly astonishing; with the additional benefit of deploying a gamification dimension enabling single and group interactivity if required.

Holovis MR enables our experiential design team to take an existing attraction and reinvent them in completely new and original ways, and at a very attractive price point.  Holovis MR can be wrapped around the attraction, bringing the walk-up, queuing, pre-show, ride, gift shop and walk out all inside the actual experience envelope. It can even be extended out of the park using mobile apps and into the home for both pre and post park engagement, so reinforcing the brand and increasing visitor return rates.”

TK: How much time, money and expertise are required to create a VR/AR feature? 

Obviously every feature is different, which in turn affects the amount of time and other resources. But I’d like to give readers an example of what it takes to create one. Maybe one way is for you to use an example of a project you were involved with.

SH: The balance has to be struck between the client’s ambition, the project scope and the available budget. A short, tightly defined project will take approximately six months, whereas a larger, full scale attraction can take from 12-18 months for inception to opening.  We are currently working with one of the largest attraction brands in the world in reimagining an existing facility to become a completely new MR experience showcasing some very exciting, globally recognised IP.  

There are always complex challenges that need to be solved during these projects, which is where you quickly determine who is really an expert in the VR/AR space, as many claim they are but very few can reliably deliver.”

TK: How would you describe interest in AR/VR among museums, science centres and other visitor attractions? For example, do these facilities see AR/VR as key for increasing visits, increasing donations or attracting younger demographics? In other words, what do they see as the business case for investing in AR/VR?

SH: The biggest challenge is working with the current, almost vertical new technology curve. Better systems, higher resolutions greater processing power are always just around the corner. And very few players really understand VR/AR storytelling. Our work with Museums and Science Centres focuses on helping them design something that really fits with their particular specialism using technology that will scale and is easily updateable. What we do know is VR/AR can make a museum come alive in ways that a few years ago would have seemed science fiction!

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