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Vasco da Gama Elevators

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One year ago in partnership with Schindler we decorated and created immersive contents for the new Amoreiras 360 Panoramic View. Through that partnership we were asked to submit a proposal to Sonae Sierra for the restyling of the elevators in Vasco da Gama, the busiest shopping mall in Portugal.

This proposal involved the design and content creation of five elevators of the shopping mall. We worked with the architects to come up with an immersive, but not claustrophobic, scenario that worked with the water theme of the entire shopping mall.

We created an experience where the users can interact with a virtual aquarium. There is a large vertical 4K screen (Sony Bravia XD85) on each elevator, protected by tempered glass. This screen works as a huge virtual aquarium where our interactive application runs.

We not only designed the final aspect of the application but also the entire scenography and decoration of the elevator. Dimensioning the structure and the materials to meet the standards of weight limitation, airflow, fire hazard, etc. A special support was designed for holding the TV, and the pathways for all the cables and electronics.

The hardware was all custom made, we prepared a sealed box to handle all the electronic components of the installation , this box is installed on top of the elevator, totally fail-proof to electrical discharges and sudden altitude drops. There are multiple couplers to control the separated electric components. We did a video log with Bruno Serras about this box.

The visuals were made using Unity3D. We used a mix of assets and plugins from the Unity Asset Store and a lot of contents where developed in-house. There where several iterations of the underwater scene, some of them we made open source, like for example the water exiting transition effect.

This virtual aquarium has a lot of small details that are not immediately recognized. For example the water level rises and lowers on sync with the elevator height, accompanying the floor the elevator is on. The sky on the screen mimics the real weather that is being experienced in the city outside, whether it’s sunny, cloudy, raining, etc. The elevator has it’s own an audio system playing water sounds depending on what elements are visible. Users can point and touch the screen to get the attention of the fish swimming by and play with the Field of View.

The LED strips on the side and top of the elevator are in sync with the whole system and animate accordingly with different behaviors, like for example:

  • when people are interacting with the system, it turns on only one LED strip
  • each floor has it’s own color
  • each time of the day has a different base color
  • LED strip animations reinforcing the movement of the elevator
  • LED strip animations reinforcing people entering and leaving the elevator platform

For the computer vision we used Bonsai and the new Kinect. The Kinect detects blobs, depending on their height it distinguishes between a head and a hand, enabling our application to have different emerging behaviors for staring and touching. To program the behaviors on Unity we used Behavior Designer, which worked pretty well.

To sync the entire system Tarquinio Mota developed a custom C# application that communicates with the Unity application, with the TV itself and with the JNIOR automaton controller. JNIOR is used as an interface between the elevator and our system. The custom C# application receives signals from the JNIOR and sends control messages to control the LED strip animations, travel the virtual camera in the aquarium, displays the normal elevator status like: doors opened or closed, floor, going up or down.

It took us a very long time preparing and delivering this project, it involved many of our team members during many months, so we are very excited to see it working on the field and hearing people talk about their experiences in it.

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