We Bought a (3D) Zoo
Axiom Holographics is an Australian company leveraging its world-leading 3D data algorithms to delight and entertain.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
‘Hologram’ is a loaded word. So let’s start with a disclaimer for the angry nerds among us who are already starting to get red in the face: we’re not talking about actual holograms but this is still new and innovative technology.
Axiom Holographics is a tech company with its antecedents in a business called Euclideon, whose ‘unlimited detail’ algorithm still powers the likes of the Tokyo traffic authority. The Australian founder, Bruce Dell, created a spinoff business called Euclideon Holographics as a specialised 3D visualisation company. Later, to complete the separation of the two entities, Euclideon Holographics was rebranded Axiom Holographics.
Axiom Holographics identified a market, especially in government, defence and higher-ed sectors, for 3D visualisation suites. The technology was esoteric and expensive, until Axiom mastered and manufactured its own infrared tracking system and its own 3D data algorithm to manage it all, marrying that tech with other commodity items such as projection and 3D glasses.
With the technology package well developed, Axiom brainstormed other markets that might be interested in its systems, apart from hush-hush applications and blue-chip industry. An installation in the Four Seasons hotel in the Maldives got Axiom thinking. The project took visitors diving with manta rays. The feedback was hugely positive.
Based in Brisbane, Axiom Holographics went in search of a convenient location to develop an immersive entertainment experience using its tech. They found a ‘dead shopping centre’, which was only five minutes drive away and where rent was cheap — this was an untested idea, after all.
WORKING WITH ANIMALS
The result is the Holographic Zoo. Axiom has installed its 3D projection technology and uses it to display bespoke animations developed by its in-house content team. The Holographic Zoo is comprised of a handful of different 3D ‘set pieces’ that allow multiple participants to share a similar experience.
Perhaps the most impressive is the Holographic Tunnel. It’s a 3D gallery where up to 20 people can experience the ‘holographic’ projections using the Axiom 3D glasses.
It’s a timed/sequential experience where participants are encouraged to move at a pace suggested by LED indicators.
Combining the ‘pace setter’ with the infrared beacons on the 3D glasses the graphics engine can display content that is appropriate to the viewer’s perspective. In other words, if the dinosaur is rearing out of the screen, one viewer can see one side of the dino’s head while the other participant can see the other side. “We’re able to crunch the numbers, allowing us to track the viewer as they walk along and then reposition that 3D hologram according to where they are within that space,” explains Axiom Holographic’s Global Sales Manager, Brenden Hodgkins.
Five laser light source BenQ LU960UST projectors are used in the Holographic Tunnel. Each 5200-lumen WUXGA unit is projecting 3D content via a separate left eye/right eye image that work with the active shutter 3D glasses. The content of the five ultra-short-throw BenQ projectors is edge-blended and stitched together to form one large cohesive image.
Brenden Hodgkins explains that the BenQ projectors are a perfect fit for the job: “they’re bright for the size; they’re black, which is handy; and we can get a big 4m image right up close to the projection screen without shadowing. The BenQ projectors provide the crystal-clear clarity we need for people to suspend their disbelief and get immersed in the virtual environment.”
People of all ages love the Holographic Zoo. Axiom sold four weeks’ worth of tickets before the Zoo was even opened. It remains open during school holidays and weekends with a big Christmas period planned.
“It’s the social alternative to VR,” enthuses Brenden, pointing out that despite the 3D glasses, friends and family share the experience – you’re aware of your surroundings and those around you.
AT A ZOO NEAR YOU
The Holographic Zoo is going places. Big, shared immersive experiences are all the rage and Axiom Holographics has fielded enquiries from all around the world. Interestingly, one of the bigger prospective markets are real-life zoos and aquariums.
“Zoos can’t possibly have the full gamut of animals under their care, so we can complement the offering with a virtual 3D experience,” noted Brenden. “While an aquarium can now have a virtual humpback whale experience, which would otherwise be impossible.”