Coronavirus: Keeping audiences engaged when the doors are shut

It’s time to reverse the location-based entertainment model. If audiences can no longer come to you, why not go to them?


An existential threat

In COVID-19 and the provisions being put in place to minimise its impact, the location-based entertainment industry is facing a challenge unlike any it has ever faced before. Organisations under the ‘LBE’ label may be incredibly varied, from museums to crazy golf, theme parks to shopping centres, but their business models all share a fundamental characteristic: large volumes of people arriving physically at their premises to spend time and, in most cases, money. As the Coronavirus crisis forces one after another to close their doors, they face a genuinely existential threat.
Despite all of the sensible, sober official communications that share lines like ‘abundance of caution’, ‘factors beyond our control’ and ‘closed for the foreseeable future’, behind the scenes there is, understandably, panic. The reality is that no one knows when they will be able to open again, how long it will take for public confidence to be restored, and whether or not this could spell the end, for some locations at least.
But is shutting up shop the only option? Physically, yes. But digitally? Perhaps not.
The undeniable fact for LBE is that people can no longer come to you. So why not go to them?

Reverse the model

Technology has reached a point where it can enable the kinds of experiences that were unimaginable only a few years ago. More than 95% of UK households now have at least one smart device, and organisations with a dash of creative ingenuity can harness this to deliver immersive experiences in the home that maintain – or even deepen – the relationships we have with LBE organisations at a time when we are unable to visit them in person.

The so-called experience economy is characterised by the increasing desire to get out, go to places and enjoy doing more, all of which is ideal for LBE. That desire hasn’t gone away, but for the next few weeks and months – at least – we won’t be able to physically act on it. Instead there will be parents whose kids are climbing the walls; child-free housemates, couples and empty-nesters watching their 10th box-set of the day; all crying out for interesting ways to occupy their time and scratch that ‘experiential’ itch. Which is where the LBE organisations we know and love could step in, with a little help from immersive tech – the most experiential digital technologies around.

Museums and other heritage organisations could develop experiences that entertain families with their astonishing stories from history. Visitor attractions could design fun, on-brand digital experiences that put smiles on faces when they are needed the most. Sports teams and administrators could create and promote next generation e-sports that keep fans engaged by moving beyond the 2D screens of consoles and PCs and into the three-dimensional environments of their homes and local areas.
Resigning to the fact that no visitors equals no business is understandable for LBE but it is premature and, quite possibly, wrong. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is just possible that, with a bit of vision, creativity and determination, the biggest crisis in memory could offer an opportunity to create greater levels of audience engagement than ever before.

If you’re interested in exploring how immersive technology can help your organisation to weather the Coronavirus storm, kom in contact.

We won!

Jon Meggitt, SImon Hobbs and Rita Marcal Accepting their Creative Pool Awards

Arcade came away with not one, but TWO awards from the Creativepool Annual 2019 launch party at London’s Banking Hall last night, for our work with SEA LIFE.

Arcade Creative Pool Awards

Roxy the Ranger, the world’s first AR chatbot in a visitor attraction, scooped the People’s Choice in addition to its Bronze in the ‘Wave’ category.

For the full story behind Roxy, click hier.

Arcade launches the new Madame Tussauds AR app: Fame Cam

Emma Watson with Augmented Reality in Madame Tussauds
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The latest Madame Tussauds app, Fame Cam, was launched today. Developed by Arcade, an immersive technology company specialising in location-based augmented reality, Fame Cam lets Madame Tussauds visitors bring the waxwork figures of their favourite celebrities to life.

Using the app, visitors can see celebrities’ facial expressions move, change their outfits and learn more about them, all in AR. By exploring all of the celebrities, visitors are rewarded with discounts in the gift shop.

“This was quite some undertaking,” said Arcade CEO Jon Meggitt. “We had to integrate deep neural net machine learning with AR to produce the quality, accuracy and seamlessness of the immersive experience, which was hugely challenging but massively rewarding. When you see the results, and the visitors connecting with the models so much more powerfully, it was definitely all worthwhile. We’re delighted with the app, and hope Madame Tussauds visitors enjoy the experience as much as we did creating it.”

Roxy the Ranger: The story behind the world’s first AR chatbot in a visitor attraction

SEA LIFE Junior Ranger AR Poster
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"Bij Arcade draait alles om het leggen van betekenisvolle verbindingen tussen mensen en plaatsen"

It starts with strategy: Roxy was created for the London Aquarium by Arcade, to amplify SEA LIFE’s ‘Amazing Discovery’ essence, which is all about fun, interactive learning.

Augmented reality is de perfecte technologie voor een uitdaging als deze, omdat het een uniek vermogen heeft om tot de verbeelding te spreken, vooral als het spaarzaam in plaats van hardnekkig wordt gebruikt. Het toont ons werelden, plaatsen, objecten - of, in dit geval, karakters - die voor het blote oog verborgen zijn, maar zelfs als het apparaat verdwijnt en Roxy uit het zicht verdwijnt, blijft ze in onze verbeelding volharden. We kunnen haar misschien niet zien, maar we weten dat ze in de buurt is. Als gevolg hiervan wordt onze relatie met het aquarium en de wezens binnenin getransformeerd en radicaal verdiept.

“It’s important that AR is used to enhance experiences, not replace them”

Roxy is beschikbaar via een gratis app en helpt SEA LIFE-bezoekers, vooral gezinnen met kinderen van 4-10 jaar, om meer te begrijpen over de wezens die ze zien door ze te entertainen, te onderwijzen en te belonen door middel van een reeks boeiende uitdagingen. Kinderen kunnen met Roxy chatten en haar verschillende vaartuigen besturen (inclusief een straalachtige onderzeeër en vliegmachine), en worden aangemoedigd om hun volwassenen te ondervragen over de feiten die ze gaandeweg hebben geleerd. Roxy beloont ze met Ranger-kaarten en aan het einde van de ervaring worden ze volwaardige Junior Rangers!

Critically, the AR experience is designed to amplify the connection between visitors and the aquarium. In between challenges, visitors are encouraged to explore the space without Roxy’s help, creating a virtuous circle of engagement between the physical experience and the digital one.

“It is was really important to have a character, so there was something in the space for kids to see and interact with”

Roxy speelt de rol van een SEA LIFE-curator of aquariaan, en was ingewikkeld ontworpen om zo geloofwaardig mogelijk te zijn, terwijl hij ook een schattig, geanimeerd karakter omarmde om jonge bezoekers aan te spreken. Het was belangrijk om haar het gevoel te geven dat ze dynamisch betrokken was bij de wereld van het aquarium, waar haar voertuigen binnenkomen - waardoor kinderen met haar mee de tanks in konden gaan en een gevoel van gedeelde ontdekking kregen.

"Het verhoogde het niveau van betrokkenheid, het verhoogde het niveau van plezier, het verhoogde de mate van interactiviteit"

 De impact van de ervaring, zoals gevalideerd door twee onafhankelijke onderzoeken, was fenomenaal. Vanuit een zakelijk perspectief werd ‘verblijftijd’ in het begin als een belangrijke maatstaf beschouwd, met als doel deze met 10% te verhogen; Uit onderzoeken bleek dat bezoekers die de app gebruikten gemiddeld 25% langer in het aquarium doorbrachten dan bezoekers zonder, met dramatisch hogere tevredenheidsscores en toegenomen 'waar voor hun geld' gevoel tijdens hun SEA LIFE-ervaring.

Net zo belangrijk, zo niet meer, uitten zowel kinderen als ouders hun opwinding en vreugde over hun interacties met Roxy. Vooral ouders waardeerden het educatieve voordeel en waardeerden de manier waarop hun kinderen de tijd namen om met Roxy en de zeedieren zelf om te gaan. 

"Werken met Arcade was ongelooflijk. Ze zijn goed bereikbaar, zo deskundig, zo meegaand, zo leuk om mee te werken. Ik zou op ieder project, elke dag en overal weer met ze samenwerken." – Rita Marcal, Global Senior Brand Manager, SEA LIFE.

Ready Visitor One….? Why it’s time to say goodbye to the ‘visitor’​

Ready Player One Film Poster
As a part of the Commonwealth Games that took place in Queensland earlier this year, the legacy group launched an initiative called ‘Be My Guest‘. Its aim was to positively shift the mindset of the local tourism industry in terms of the way it consciously and sub-consciously treated its consumers.
Gold Coast 2018 Banner

Referring to standard industry monikers such as ‘passenger’, ‘visitor’, ‘customer’ or ‘tourist’, it points out that, “from these definitions, people will be treated with varying degrees of personal care, according to the way they are viewed.” They go on to encourage every host to consider their audiences as ‘guests’ – because we are taught from a young age that guests are special, to be afforded special privileges and treated exceptionally well.

It is undoubtedly true that the names we use for groups of people have an impact on our behaviours towards them, and that ‘guest’ cues many positive attitudes that ‘visitor’, for example, does not. But, thinking of visitor attractions specifically, does it go far enough?

In order to continue to thrive and grow, museums, galleries and heritage sites are having to engage increasingly tech-savvy audiences whose expectations of the ‘IRL‘ experiences they choose are rising every year. Despite best efforts, traditional approaches to audience engagement, curation, interpretation and exhibition planning risk falling short with experiences that remain static, flat, linear and impersonal, and invite audiences to be little more than passive observers. That treat them as visitors, the same way they always have.

The ‘Be My Guest’ initiative defines a visitor as “One who visits a place or person, socially/as a tourist; is not permanent, does not belong to the area; a passer-by; not local.

It is becoming clear that, as an attitude towards our audiences, this simply isn’t good enough if we are to meet their rising demands. They – we – live in an experience economy characterised by increasingly blurred lines between the physical and digital worlds, where we carry supercomputers in our pockets that keep us topped up on entertainment-fuelled dopamine every few minutes. As a result, our expectations of everything we do and everywhere we go are changing. We want to be active participants, feel immersed and part of the experience and, most importantly, have fun.

Which means we don’t want to be visitors. Or even guests.

We want to be players.

‘Play’ should not be mistaken for frivolity – it is a fundamental, even profound motivation, and is being given a prominence in culture like never before, fuelled in large part by technology.

If we stop thinking of the people turning up at our sites as ‘visitors’ and start seeing them as ‘players’, we will start to build experiences with more of the characteristics of games: competition, challenge and reward. This is the interactivity and dynamism we crave; by making places playable, and designing them for players, not just guests or visitors, we can equip attractions to reassert their relevance in the digital era.

Visitor attractions: it’s time to say goodbye to the visitors, and hello to the players.

Kids using SEA LIFE Junior Ranger AR App