Rebuilding a tropical island in real-time AR for Royal Caribbean Cruises

Animatrik teamed up with VR/AR production studio Super Bright to create an augmented reality experience for Royal Caribbean Cruises like no other.

To promote a new line of private island excursions, Animatrik utilised motion tracking technology to help transform a nondescript Manhattan building into the illustrious CocoCay, bringing a slice of paradise into reality via interactive iPad screens.

“We were asked to support the experience because Animatrik has a wealth of experience with motion tracking at large-scale events,” says Brett Ineson, President of Animatrik. “However, CocoCay was something else entirely. It was VR and AR at never-before-seen, record-breaking scale.”

Tracking in the tropics

Combining the best elements of VR and AR, visitors were first introduced to the Perfect Day Islands launch via 360 floor-to-ceiling video walls, before being thrust into an AR island ‘walkthrough’.

The Perfect Day Islands event took place at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, which had been radically transformed for visitors: it contained a collection of ‘portals’ – physically seen as large, futuristic archways. Visitors were handed an iPad and set loose in a vast, virtually-replicated CocoCay.

As guests approach a portal, their iPad screen would ripple to life and render computer graphics, transforming into an interactive view of CocoCay’s beautiful island scenery. AR sights included the tallest water slide in North America, a helium balloon that rises up to 450 feet in the air, and a beach escape with daybeds, over-water cabanas and more.

Animatrik ensured the event’s technology was capable of tracking 150 visitors efficiently and simultaneously. The team provided positioning data to ensure real-time graphics were streamed accurately to iPad screens, depending on a visitor’s location within the building.

Over 60 ceiling-mounted infrared cameras were set up and calibrated, synced to large tracking modules (or ‘pucks’) developed by Natural Point’s OptiTrack. By attaching these pucks to an iPad, the whole island is placed within the palm of a user’s hand.

Immense scale for AR

The Perfect Day Islands launch was a truly vast real-time experience, demonstrating augmented reality at an unprecedented scale.

“At Animatrik, we continually seek to push boundaries across a range of virtual experiences, whether its fully immersive worlds or bringing digital elements into reality. But we really feel like we went above and beyond for Coco Cay,” says Brett.

Indeed, Brett is no stranger to large-scale technological events. A few short years ago, Animatrik set the record for the most people ever captured in a single volume, using Lightstorm’s Giant technology.

Computer crunchtime

Such an extensive, real-time virtual world isn’t crafted on a whim. A great deal of research, development and experimentation was poured into the pre-production process at Animatrik.  

First and foremost, Animatrik needed to understand the exact type of computation processes that would be running. Working in partnership with supercomputing specialists Silverdraft, a test computer was built to crunch all motion data in real time. Animatrik performed iteration after iteration on this data to make sure the software ran smoothly and reliably.

“We tested the technology on Valentine’s Day, setting out pucks across the stage in a fun, giant heart shape,” recalls Brett. “We needed to test how well a huge number of pucks could be tracked simultaneously in a confined environment, and how many markers per puck would be reasonable.”

Each puck has its own set of LED tracking markers. After many tests, it was decided that three LED markers per puck would optimise computational headspace – the perfect compromise for signal reliability, without the puck registering as multiple visitors.

From app development to animation, a wide range of technology was used to power the event and required extensive collaboration spearheaded by Super Bright, with specialist input from Natural Point, Silverdraft and Animatrik.

“CocoCay is large enough to accommodate some of the world’s biggest ships – try translating that into an expansive AR space!” concludes Brett. “It’s a huge achievement for all involved, all thanks to the hard work and collaboration between Super Bright, Animatrik and beyond.”