THE GREEN PLANET AR EXPERIENCE
UK’s top ranked immersive experience by customer enjoyment with 96% approval rating, according to research by immersive specialists StoryFutures
BBC Studios, Sir David Attenborough, EE, Department of Culture Media and Sports, The Crown Estate, Dimension Studios, Talesmith
Immersive experiences, Brand and Communications, Spatial Computing, Learning, Environment, 5G, Mobile Edge Compute
Augmented reality and 5G
Our group was challenged to explore how future immersive experiences can harness 5G and Augmented Reality to engage wide audiences, extend content brands and deliver lasting behaviour change.
The result was a ticketed experience where audiences were able to step into The Green Planet TV series and go on a self directed tour of the natural world with a holographic Sir David Attenborough as their guide.
“We jumped at the chance. It was a great opportunity with some of the best creative talent on the planet.”
“Factory 42 do things I don’t understand. They are magicians producing a sort of alchemy.”
Planet Earth II & III, BBC
FACTORY 42 ROLE
CONCEPT AND DESIGN
Originated the concept and brought together consortium of partners. Led effort to win £2m+ grant funding from Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport. Creatively directed and designed all aspects of the physical experience and app.
Secured and restored iconic Grade I listed building and oversaw installation of real life rainforest. Operated full experience including all ticketing, H&S and VIP evening events. Played key role with EE and BBC in driving multiple £M of PR value.
Created all software, interactions, art, animations. Built edge rendered AR app, using latest 5G, Nvidia, Ericsson and VMWare tech. Designed all on site branding. Built physical sets in a fully sustainable way, setting new standard now adopted by BBC.
KEY F42 CONTACT
Chief Technology Officer
Put nature at your fingertips and journey through the secret world of plants with a virtual Sir David Attenborough in The Green Planet AR Experience.
What was it?
Created by Factory 42 with BBC Studios and inspired by the Natural History Unit landmark series, The Green Planet, this boundary-breaking experience was located in the heart of London’s Piccadilly Circus and powered by EE’s 5G network. The experience combined captivating storytelling with cutting-edge technology to transport audiences through five digitally-enhanced worlds - Rainforest, Freshwater, Saltwater, Desert and Seasonal biomes, as they explored our green planet like never before. Finally culminating in the human story and how we can all affect positive change.
What is the backstory of the project?
In early 2020 Factory 42 pulled together the project partnership with BBC Studios, EE, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Talesmith and Dimension Studios. We led a bid team into a public competition for grant funds from the Department of Digital Culture and Sport (DCMS), winning a multi-million pound grant despite intense competition from across the UK. The project was one of nine to win DCMS funding as part of the 5G Create competition which explores how 5G can be used by a wide range of sectors including the creative industries.
The story was inspired by the BBC’s The Green Planet TV series with the Factory 42 team working closely with the BBC’s fabled Natural History Unit and BBC Studios Interactive to reimagine the series as an immersive experience. Factory 42 continued to lead the project and act as co-creative lead with all code, interactions, art assets and app technology as well as experience design created in-house by our multidisciplinary team of artists, engineers, designers and producers. Factory 42 also managed the relationship with DCMS on behalf of funders. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew provided scientific advice and validation on the digital plants that were created. Dimension Studios technology was used to capture Sir David as a hologram. Talesmith Films acted as creative consultants and directed the holographic capture shoot.
In November of 2021 Factory 42 agreed a deal with the Crown Estate and EE for the iconic 55 Regent St at Piccadilly Circus to be used as the venue for the public trials of the experience. The space, previously a Virgin Megastore and before that Tower Records, is a Grade I listed building but was a disused concrete shell. In just three months the Factory 42 led team of builders and set designers completed a construction project to build a ‘white box’ space including new toilets, walls and fire safety systems, before bringing in set builders and a real life rainforest to create a meditative green wonderland off Regent Street. The Crown Estate manages the seabed and half the foreshore around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, playing a fundamental role in the sustainable development of this important national asset. Their partnership with Factory 42 forms part of a number of recent sustainability focussed pop-ups on Regent Street, which The Crown Estate has also supported.
The audience experience:
In this free experience a mobile device acted as a dynamic window into the wonderful world of plants. Led by a 3D hologram of Sir David Attenborough, created using volumetric capture technology, visitors could engage with plant life on their timescale and from their perspective.
As Sir David explains: “You’ll see that plants can be as aggressive, competitive and dramatic as any living thing on the planet - and how they form intriguing relationships with animals. And you’ll discover why plants are so vital for the future of our planet. Your device is a window into a secret world.”
From blowing digital seeds into the air, holding a virtual butterfly in the palm of one’s hands, to reviving seagrass whilst submerged under saltwater, visitors took a magical leap into the natural world and learnt about the importance of biodiversity and protecting our planet. These vivid interactions were enhanced by spatial audio that guided visitors through the digital environment with virtual plants and animals which reacted to their presence in the space.
The technology and innovation:
The Green Planet AR Experience brought cutting edge technologies from a variety of technology partners together into an integrated system to deliver this innovative and high fidelity AR experience to large numbers of visitors. The AR app content was generated in realtime in the Unity game engine, and ran on a custom on-site GPU edge rendering stack using NVidia industrial grade graphics cards to support the ultra high quality 3D digital assets, environments, interactions and VFX effects. This GPU edge rendering stack was connected to an EE private 5G Standalone network, using the latest Ericsson Industry Connect Core solution, and the AR app used the NVidia CloudXR solution to stream all the content from the edge of this private 5G network to the Samsung S21 mobile handsets used by each visitor. Google’s Cloud Anchor and ARCore technology was used throughout the physical experience to precisely locate each visitor as they moved between spaces, enabling the interplay between digital content and physical sets to enhance the immersive experience.
The approach to sustainable production:
To ensure The Green Planet Experience was in line with its environmental message, we worked with isla, to implement ‘proseed’, their best practice framework for sustainable events. Through setting ambitious sustainability targets, robust planning, and transparent reporting, The Green Planet AR Experience was brought to the public while treading lightly on our planet.
All materials used in the construction of this experience were reused or recycled after the event to promote circularity. From bamboo props, pine approved by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), recycled steel, to paper rope, our sustainable principles were considered at every level of construction and operation. We also used innovative new technologies and materials where possible such as our ceiling installation in the Saltwater biome that was made from an eco-textile produced entirely from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles (post-consumer waste). After the event, it was sent to a waste-to-energy plant where it was transformed into renewable energy for the National Grid.
A one biome taster of The Green Planet AR Experience was part of the official selection in the XR strand of the SxSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas in March 2022.