Faceware empowers Aquarium education

Customer story

The brief

Faceware doesn’t just power video games, TV and film. We were asked by the team to create a story focusing on another area entirely – how Faceware technology can drive real-time, live interaction that both educates and entertains.

We interviewed the team at North Carolina Aquariums’ Pine Knoll Shores to find out more about their new Caretta’s Cove installation. Our goal: to understand how Faceware Live was being used to enable educators to deliver an important message, while simultaneously capturing the young audience’s imagination.

The story

Installations and exhibits pose a different proposition today to that of ten years ago. A wave of new technology has enabled new, exciting methods of dynamically delivering content to audiences in ways rarely never experienced before.

Case in point: North Carolina Aquariums’ Pine Knoll Shores, which has leveraged such new technology to create Caretta’s Cove; an interactive exhibit designed to teach children about the threats faced by loggerhead sea turtles.

In the exhibit, Children learn by conversing with Caretta herself: a CG-animated turtle who swims across an 80-inch screen and answers questions on the spot.

This live interaction is enabled by an educator behind the curtain, who performs Caretta’s facial movements via mocap solution Faceware Live. Faceware Live translates the nuances of the performance onto the animated turtle in real-time, enabling the actor to deliver an important message while simultaneously capturing the audience’s imagination.

The Birth of Caretta

Pine Knoll Shores first envisioned the Caretta Cove exhibit in 2011, inspired by similar installations such as Robert the Zebra at San Diego Wild Safari Park and Turtle Talk with Finding Nemo’s Crush at various Disney amusement parks.

In order to make the concept a reality in 2016, the aquarium harnessed the talents of an exhibit designer, who researched facial capture software and hardware solutions that could power the installation. Faceware Live was the answer.

“Faceware Live is truly best solution out there, the most reliable, and the best price for indie development,” begins Windy Arey-Kent, Pine Knoll Shore’s education curator.

Faceware Live offered the team the perfect balance between price, ease of use, and technical support, particularly given that no additional capture hardware is required to track facial movement: Live is completely markerless technology, capable of converting live video from a camera feed and projecting it onto the turtle rig near instantaneously.

“You can see the magic when the performances take place – the children are just enthralled by what they’re seeing.”

This means no complex set-up for the educators – Live is able to calibrate any performer in one second, simply by having the actor stand in front of a camera in nearly any lighting condition while making a neutral expression. With one click the actor is calibrated and ready to act out Caretta’s interactive performance.

Production on the installation took four months, which included building the Caretta model and her four environments, as well as plugging Faceware Live into the Unity game engine to translate each operator’s facial movements onto the digital puppet.

With some ingenuity and clever development, the team was able to create a setup that any operator could use to power the exhibit while teaching the immersed audience.

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