So cool: Petting cheetahs at the Canberra airport
Travelers can do that and more with an augmented reality display
December 2, 2016
You can pet a cheetah at the National Zoo and Aquarium.
You can hunt for bettongs (often called rat kangaroos) in the Australian Capital Territory’s woodlands and wetlands.
Or you can get close to humpback whales on the Sapphire Coast.
And you can do all of this without even leaving Canberra Airport.
A new augmented reality display in the baggage claim area of the airport allows travelers to experience all of those things and more. It sounds impossible but it’s true.
The display, from digital agency APositive, is to promote tourism throughout Australia. More experiences will be added in the coming months.
What’s being promoted
Visit Canberra and the Commonwealth Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure program.
Why this stunt
Augmented reality has grown in popularity this year, thanks largely to the summer’s Pokémon GO craze. In many cases, AR uses a mobile device’s camera to make it look as if objects are in front of or beside you.
When using AR for advertising, however, getting people to pull out a smartphone isn’t always easy or practical. So APositive created an AR experience that didn’t need a smartphone to work.
“From experience, there are circumstances where it’s not convenient to pull out your mobile device,” says Amber Standley, director and user experience designer at the Canberra digital agency APositive. “Juggling baggage in the airport is one such example.”
“Through many iterations, we gradually pivoted from a passive experience, where the user sees herself surrounded by AR content, to an entirely interactive experience where she can move her hands and change the narrative of the content.”
Also, not needing a mobile device to interact with the AR experience opens it up to a wider audience, including kids.
The AR installation launched on Nov. 28 and will remain at the airport permanently. The current campaign will run for at least 18 months.
How it works
The AR allows passersby to interact with the screen, which responds to movement. For the cheetah, for example, the big cat purrs and stretches when a user’s hand “pets” it.
The bettong experience resembles a video game. Users wave their hand, which acts as a virtual flashlight, and attempt to shine the light on critters as they run across the screen. Passersby get one minute to catch as many animals as they can.
It’s similar to playing a game on the Nintendo Wii video game console, only no controllers are necessary.
Most interactions with the display last between one and two minutes.
APositive started by using third-party AR plug-ins but eventually decided to build its own software program for the stunt.
“The benefit of doing this is we now have a scalable product we can on-sell to other clients,” Standley says.
She says this style of billboard could also work in shopping centers, museums, festivals, expos and zoos. The agency is in talks to launch similar displays at other institutions.
Why it works
The display works for two reasons. First, the technology is still new, making it interesting attractive to passersby and onlookers.
Also, since the display is located in the baggage claim area of the airport, the target audience has time to interact while they wait for bags.
How it was received
It’s early, but APositive is collecting analytics, including tracking users’ gaze and time spent interacting with each experience. It’s even counting smiles through facial expression tracking.
Many news outlets around Australia have covered the new display. Standley says reaction from travelers has also been positive.
“The look on people’s faces when they see it for the first time is that of genuine surprise and delight,” she says. “Many people are pulling out their phones to capture pictures and video footage of their experience.”
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