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

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“At Arcade, we’re all about making meaningful connections between people and places”

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 the perfect technology for a challenge like this because it has a unique ability to fire the imagination, particularly when used sparingly rather than persistently. It shows us worlds, places, objects – or, in this case, characters – that are hidden from the naked eye, but even when the device goes away and Roxy disappears from view, she still persists in our imagination. We may not be able to see her, but we know she is nearby. As a result, our relationship with the aquarium and the creatures within is transformed, and radically deepened.

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

Available via a free app, Roxy helps SEA LIFE visitors, especially families with kids aged 4-10, to understand more about the creatures they see by entertaining, educating and rewarding them through a series of engaging challenges. Kids can chat with Roxy and pilot her various craft (including a ray-like submersible and flying machine), and are encouraged to quiz their grown-ups on the facts they have learned along the way. Roxy rewards them with Ranger Cards, and at the end of the experience they become fully-fledged 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 plays the role of a SEA LIFE curator or aquarist, and was intricately designed to be as believable as possible, whilst also embracing a cute, animated character aesthetic to appeal to young visitors. It was important to make her feel dynamically involved with the world of the aquarium, which is where her vehicles come in – allowing kids to go with her into the tanks and foster a sense of shared discovery.

“It increased the level of engagement, it increased the level of fun, it increased the level of interactivity”

 The impact of the experience, as validated by two independent trials, has been phenomenal. From a business perspective, ‘dwell time’ was identified as a key metric at the outset, with a target of increasing it by 10%; trials showed that visitors using the app spent on average 25% longer in the aquarium than those without, with dramatically higher satisfaction scores and perceived value for money from their SEA LIFE experience.

As importantly, if not more so, kids and parents alike expressed their excitement and delight with their interactions with Roxy. Parents in particular appreciated the educational benefit and appreciated the way their kids slowed down and took their time to engage with both Roxy and the sea creatures themselves. 

“Working with Arcade has been incredible. They are so responsive, so knowledgeable, so accommodating, so much fun to work with. I would work with them again any time, any day, anywhere.”
– Rita Marcal, Global Senior Brand Manager, SEA LIFE.

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