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Interactive Annual 20:
Environmental

Flying on Water

Launch Movie

“As close as one can get to womanning the boat herself without actually getting wet.”
—Ana Serrano

“A wonderful example of design and technology crossing over into the physical world to allow people to experience what it’s like to sail. What I really liked about this is that the interactive components were not just virtual—there were physical interactions that allowed you to feel the wind in your hair and water across your fingers.”
—Dustin Callif


Overview: When the America’s Cup was held on San Francisco Bay last year, fans were treated to an up-close, waterfront view of the action for the first time in the international sailing race’s 162-year history. Even from afar, the 2013 yachts—72-foot catamarans boasting thirteen-story-tall masts—commanded attention, sparking citywide curiosity. Race organizers took the opportunity to engage the public with an educational exhibit exploring the interplay of wind, water and state-of-the-art yachting technology, enlisting Obscura Digital to build interactive projections that explain exactly how the AC72 catamarans can “fly”—up to 50 miles per hour—on water. More than one million visitors to the Pier 29 installation were treated to a variety of interactive experiences, including a tactile wall of composite materials, a 14-foot-tall digital 3-D model of the AC72 controlled by a large, glowing glass track ball and an enclosed wind tunnel blowing at 12 knots.

  • • By putting a hand inside the transparent wind tunnel tube, visitors could shape the air flow to simulate air pressure effects on the AC72’s fixed “wing” sails. Their movements were then translated to the virtual AC72 projected on the wall, creating a palpable connection to the physics at play.
  • • Another kiosk revealed the AC72’s most riveting feature—hydrofoils. When visitors depressed a miniature version of these wing-like metal structures beneath the hulls, the projected catamaran raised above the water line, causing it to accelerate to twice the wind speed.

Comments by Nathan Houchin and Garth Williams:

Were there any specific demands or out-of-the-ordinary obstacles? “Creating interaction models based on real physical phenomena was extremely challenging. It took a lot of finessing to make it usable, and it was difficult to keep up morale and belief in the final vision. It would have been much easier to fake the physical interaction with another technology (Leap Motion or Kinect), but we stuck to our guns and, in the end, it paid off. There is no substitute for ‘real,’ especially in this day and age.”

Credits

Nao Haitani/Marc Melzer/Ben Stokes, art directors
Bryant Place/Jacob Stephens/Barry Threw, interactive designers
Garth Williams, creative director
Sean Holt, information architect
Diego Novoa/Tom Sepe/Desmond Shea/Bryan Sullivan/Joe Vigorito, associate producers
Nathan Houchin, producer
Matty Dowlen, production manager
Iwamoto Scott, architect
Obscura Digital (San Francisco, CA), project design and development


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