Q&A: Michel Buchner, Tinker imagineers creative technologist

Tim Kridel speaks with experience design agency Tinker to learn more about additional opportunities that AV integrators can take advantage of in the visitor attraction marketplace.

TK: What are some trends in how museums, science centres and other visitor attractions are using AV? 

MB: We see a rising awareness in the use of AV. The way we communicate and absorb information is rapidly changing. The industry is therefore looking for new means to engage with their audience. The keywords of this transformation are immersiveness and experience. Overall we see an increase in the use of media servers in combination with large scale (projection/LED) canvasses. Think of large dome projections, room wide multi projector setups or an 18 wide and 8m deep projection pit, to give a view on the earth, sometimes interactive. These types of technologies where in the past the exclusive area of large Arena shows or subsidised planetariums. The technology and the knowledge to implement it has become widespread and accessible. More importantly, agencies like our own, have learned to apply these new means of visual story telling and make good use of it. 

TK: 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?

MB: AR/VR is in its infancy and at this moment there is only one commercially available VR headset. It’s a technology with a futuristic aura because the majority of the people haven’t tried it.

We see sporadic installations with VR come to life. The difficulty is the single user experience. For an international client of ours we’re busy implementing an installation with five VR headsets. It’s a really difficult process because the technology is on really unbroken ground and companies like Oculus VR are too busy with the consumer launch and not replying to information requests from the industry.

Within Tinker we see a huge potential in creating experiences with VR and AR. It will be a great extension to let people experience things that are unthinkable in the real space, to immerse them completely. We envision that in the near future, special rooms will be created to let multiple people with a VR or an AR headset wander around. 

There will be opportunities for the system integrator: Equip a black box with positional sensors and deliver the VR/AR headsets and ecosystem that can provide the virtual experience in the most convincing way. Apart from a creative standpoint, exhibitors can change content at will by developing a new experience, without overhauling a complete room setup. Again, we see this as an addition, not as a replacement for the tactile and real life spacial experience.

TK: What should AV integrators know in order to work successfully with companies such as Tinker?

MB: We’re storytellers and experience designers. Ideas develop and change along the way. I can remember a case where we where working on a robot choreography with screens that got exchanged by shadow-play projections with light and small figurines. It made the story much stronger and magical. That’s what we’re doing already for 25 years, using AV to good use to create a compelling experience. Sometimes even less technology is better. 

AV integrators in general should be prepared to investigate new ideas and pick up unproven technology that’s slightly out of the daily scope. The smaller AV integrators tend to be more flexible, inquisitive and specialised where the bigger companies have problems to keep up. 

TK: What’s key for ensuring that the integrator, Tinker and the client are all on the same page when it comes to choosing and implementing an innovative new AV technology? 

MB: Doing challenging and potentially ‘risky’ projects, requires a pioneering mindset from the client, integrator and the creative agency. Before a project gets the green light, all parties must agree on the undeniable fact that we’ll face serious challenges, setbacks and that we will make compromises. Be sure to create a realistic time frame and allocate some of the budget for contingencies to cover for the inevitable. The rest is all about trust and communication. Be prepared to invest time in miniaturisation or to simulate to proof the concept in 3D.

For a Swiss client we’re creating a historical experience in five spacial rooms. Overall alignment is a key factor in a challenging complex project like this with a full 360-degree projection, projection mapping and historic imaging techniques. We’ve found the solution in visualising and pre-programming everything in the Coolux media server. This had numerous advantages along the whole production line for all parties involved. Our client had 3D video representation of the experience based on the CAD drawings of the scenographic builder. We as experience designers saw the immediate effect from our design and content choices in 3D. Our Integrator has the benefit of programming and validating the foundation of the actual show-control within the actual to be installed system. I can only imagine the lack of sleep if we hadn’t used this.

You can find out more on this topic in the March edition of InAVate EMEA. If you don’t receive the magazine then access it online now and sign up for a free print or digital edition subscription.
Also in this series: 
Eric Mizufuka, Epson on AR and museums

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