Fungus Among Us! Enklu and Onedome Host Experience at Cal Academy of Sciences NightLife Event
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
Last Thursday night, the Coral Reef section of the aquarium at the Cal Academy of Sciences transformed into a new dimension - one with glowing, luminescent mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. People from all around the Bay Area lined up to witness this mycological anomaly and explore a world they had never seen before. Embarking on the journey by looking through one of our hololenses, they discovered they gained a magical power at their fingertips. Colorful energy revolved around their extended finger, swirling into a crackling nebula of power. Curious smiles lit up faces as they discovered they were drawing in the spores of an especially bright fungi, as if being called to reach out to that specific mushroom. Looking closer, they noticed a small, radiant butterfly perched on top of the mushroom, sparkling with energy. They reached out, merging their own energy with the butterfly's, unveiling the true nature of this dimension and the celestial being that guards it. Blue energy lines of mycelium began to course through the room and surround the explorer, leading upwards to a massive, gleaming Morpho butterfly gently unfolding its wings. Curiosity gave way to awe as the explorer looked around and took it all in, captivated by the magic happening before their eyes.
When we got word that the Cal Academy NightLife events series wanted to offer an AR experience, we were honored and excited to get to work. Working with our partners at Onedome SF, we started sourcing content to fit the theme and began to plan the interactive flow of the experience. After arriving at a creative census, our engineers refined the ideas and produced an amazing experience within days. We arrived on site with a small fleet of hololenses and were joined by members of the Customer Experience team at Onedome to help out. Within an hour we placed the experience in the aquarium and were placing lenses on the heads of eager participants.
That isn't to say the night wasn't without its challenges. Our initial plan was to scan the portion of the aquarium that we were in, and then anchor the scene into place. When we began scanning, we realized that the extremely low lighting and the darker colors of everything in the room was making it next to impossible to get a full scan of the room. Everyone immediately jumped into action to look for a solution. We shined a multi-point laser on the floor and wall to give the lens something to see, and we were also able to source some extra lighting from the venue. Building our impromptu "set" wasn't something that was planned, but ended up adding that much more to the entire show. As patrons began to flow through, we realized that the experience was taking much longer than it should to load and render. This is the kind of show-stopping problem that some teams may have crumbled in the face of - but instead of panicking, we remained calm and came together as a cohesive team to solve problems on the fly. Ben and James began to troubleshoot the scene, as the rest of us experimented and tried to diagnose the issue empirically - all while maintaining a flow of patrons through the experience. Our "a-ha" moment came when Ben noticed something in our logs - the loud music from the DJ in the room next to us was causing the lens' microphone to constantly be processing voice recognition. A quick update and install to the devices and we were back in business.
Earlier that week, we met and defined one of the core values of the company - leadership. What we didn't know was that many of the qualities we came up with would be on display the next night! At one point or another, everyone embodied the qualities of a good leader. The mark of a good team, and by extension good leaders, is how a group operates and solves problems, both organically and with specific intention. Everyone had their own perspective on what being a leader means, but we all agreed that a leader is someone who recognizes the individuals' and the team's skills, strengths, and weaknesses - and then creates a container and environment that highlights those strengths and minimizes those weaknesses. A leader is someone who rubs off on others in a positive way, and inspires people to be passionate about their tasks and to become better overall. Throughout the night, everyone was empowered to jump into roles that they felt they could help out with - this created a smooth operating machine that was both focused on solving problems and adaptive to the situation as it changed. When we needed to change the lighting, I was able to hand off the task that I was working on at the time and immediately jump onto fixing the lights - with full trust that the task I left would get done correctly. When Ben and James were troubleshooting and solving problems, we were able to manipulate the flow of patrons and continue the experience so they could focus on repairs. While it was just one night and not a massive project, I'm proud of our team for creating an amazing experience and overcoming challenges on the way!
This is the true magic of Enklu and augmented reality. With relatively minimal planning and zero prior build out, our team was able to produce, set up, and host a captivating, awe-inspiring experience that fit into the larger theme of the night. Everyone on the team stepped up and contributed to make it possible, and we even overcame a few situational curveballs thrown at us throughout the night. This pop-up model is a great example of how Enklu works in an enterprise setting. We had a line down the hall for the entire night, and even had to cut off the line because we were getting so many people interested.
Check out the Cal Academy NightLife events series here!
If you or a venue you work for is at all interested in hosting an AR experience of any size, please reach out to us! We can work within almost any environment, and would love to come set up an experience at your venue.