Bournemouth Oceanarium floats dive cage ‘experience’

What is claimed to be the world’s first interactive ‘dive cage’ is set to open at the Oceanarium in Bournemouth later this month, showcasing the design work of audio-visual specialists Mice Amigo and digital consultancy Flaming Pear Interactive.

The £200 000 project will offer visitors a ‘virtual’ underwater experience using three 50-inch plasma screens with a 270-degree viewing area, all set inside a 2.5m2 steel cage.

Mice Amigo brought in Flaming Pear to programme about two hours’ worth of bespoke sequences and animation, bringing exotic great white sharks, manta rays, dolphins and blue whales to the aquarium.

‘Greater interactivity is one of the areas for enhancement of the Oceanarium which is most requested by the public,’ says Oceanarium general manager James Eels. ‘We thought that if it was going to be a 3D installation, it was best to concentrate on creatures that we can’t show in the aquarium itself. The dive cage has become a multifunctional way of doing that.’

Funded by Oceanarium parent company Real Live Leisure, the dive cage exhibit was conceived to increase the average dwell-time of visitors to the attraction. According to Mice Amigo managing director Steve Prior, the initial brief from Eels was broad.

‘Initially, the client only knew it wanted to invest in some interactivity, so the brief was very wide,’ says Prior. ‘To start with, we suggested three or four ideas throughout the aquarium, but it became apparent that there was a bit of dead space in the venue just before the “money moment” of its underwater tunnel.’

Interactive touch screens in the cage deliver information about the anatomy, speed, feeding and breeding habits of the creatures as they swim by. Flaming Pear has designed animation, games and challenges alongside the moving sequences, and special projection techniques light up the dive cage ceiling, creating an effect of sunlight shining through the ‘ocean’ above.

Flaming Pear’s animations were rendered from wire models of the creatures, with the shark’s mouth alone containing more than 150 modelled and textured teeth, and its skin comprising almost 600 million pixels.

‘It was very important to us to create as immersive an experience as possible, where everything flowed and looped without any break in the sequence,’ says consultancy creative director Marian Emmett.

The dive cage exhibit will launch at an evening event on 27 March, with a family day to follow on 31 March.

• Oceanarium is owned by Real Live Leisure, part of Grant Leisure, which is in turn owned by Mice Group, parent to Mice Amigo
• Dive cage exhibit represents an investment of £200 000
• Project led by general manager James Eels and displays manager Oliver Buttling
• Dive cage concept by Mice Amigo, screen animations and games designed by Flaming Pear Interactive

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