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?

TO EXPLORE HOW IMMERSIVE TECH CAN HELP, GET IN TOUCH

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, get in touch.

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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To get in touch, contact us at contact@arcade.ltd

 

“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.

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