Client: Vision3 and Conservation International
Location: New York, NY, United States
Completion date: 2019
The “Jellyfish” is an original sculptural theater designed and created to be the physical setting for the immersive VR experience, 'Drop in the Ocean.' As you approach, the whole piece is delightful and impactful, and it creates a cohesive experience for the user through layers of immersion, from entering the jellyfish to the virtual world of the ocean. A spongy floor in the arena adds to users’ virtual underwater journey. The 16’-tall installation is made up of 1200 linear feet of aluminum tubing, covered with 2400 square feet of fabric, stretched onto the armature and illuminated from within with LEDs.
During the design process, Thinc Design explored the spectrum of naturalism to abstraction for the jellyfish form: too far in one direction and it wouldn’t read like a jellyfish, too far in the other and its anatomy would prohibit the use of the VR. In the end, Thinc created a real synergy between the form and the technical requirements of the VR infrastructure. The jellyfish form could twist and contort to create paths and back of house spaces that felt organic and intentional. This was the real challenge: creating an exuberant form to tell a story in its own right, and simultaneously be a venue for other stories to be told.
‘Drop in the Ocean’ is an interactive, virtual-reality experience that immerses participants deep in the water — and directly into the plastic pollution crisis plaguing the world’s oceans. To create a truly immersive experience, co-producer Vision3 envisioned integrating the VR experience within a purpose-built installation that melded the virtual with the physical. To realize this vision, they turned to the artistic experiential design studio Thinc Design.
Thinc’s timeframe to design and build the Jellyfish was tight: Thinc started designing in February and brought in Transformit in mid-March to draw, engineer, and fabricate the Jellyfish. The demanding timeframe meant the design team couldn’t deliberate too much nor prototype, so the whole process had to be efficient and somewhat experimental. Thinc has experience designing fabric structures, but this is the first time they created something as true to a natural form, and that also needed to meet with technical requirements of virtual-reality camera tracking systems. Transformit, with their extensive experience designing and fabricating sculptural stretch-fabric forms that integrate modern technology systems, was the ideal collaborator. The resulting fabrication, with custom graphics and internal lighting, brings Thinc’s design, with its fluid-like curves and glowing colors, to life as a wonder of the sea.
Co-produced by Vision3 and Conservation International, 'Drop in the Ocean' is a seven-minute-long VR experience that is built from the photo archive of Academy Award-winning micro-photographer Peter Parks. When participants step into the jellyfish and slip on the VR goggles, they become a passenger atop a virtual jellyfish and journey through the ocean depths, guided by the narration of explorers Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau and enveloped in the music of Gold Panda.