The same holographic technology that’s sending departed music stars on tour is allowing civilians to assemble a jet engine in Dumbo.
GE’s expansive array of innovative technologies have made the company a pioneer across numerous sectors of everyday life—particularly in the area of commercial aviation. And in an effort to showcase the mechanics behind one of its creations, GE has teamed up with agency BBDO New York to create Throttle Up, an immersive, holographic sensory experience running during Creative Week in New York.
Using a holistic suite of motion-control and projection technologies, Throttle Up allows participants to assemble a life-size 3-D rendition of GE’s eco-friendly and energy-efficient GEnx jet engine using only their hands.
"We’ve done a lot of TV commercials [for GE] before, but we’ve never given people an opportunity to see how these things come to life and understand the magic," says Scott Rodgers, SVP creative director on GE at BBDO New York. "We started learning about the GE jet engine, and we thought it’d be so cool if we could show people not only how they’re made, but give them the chance to make one themselves."
In one week, St. Ann’s Warehouse near Dumbo’s waterfront was transformed into a sleek, all-black showroom to house Throttle Up, a collaboration between BBDO, Socialistic, Musion Systems Limited for the holographic technology, Float Hybrid Entertainment for the gaming engine, and Framestore for 3-D renderings.
A nighttime cityscape spattered with stars is set on a giant screen as you enter an otherwise pitch-black room. A dazzling array of jet engine parts scatter before you until assembled and attached to a plane that takes off into the distance. Giving participants a richness in visual depth, Throttle Up’s images are displayed using Musion Eyeliner, a high-definition holographic video projection system allowing 3-D movements within a live setting—not to mention the same technology used for the ballyhooed holographic 2Pac performance at Coachella. Essentially, Musion Eyeliner is glorified prestidigitation for the digital age, utilizing the illusionary technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, which dates back to the mid-19th century.
In lieu of glass, as per the original trick, Musion Eyeliner uses a thin, transparent metalized film stretched across the stage at a 45-degree angle toward the audience where a projector from above casts its images onto the film which is then reflected as a 3-D image.
The Way You Move
The Minority Report feeling that attends the experience of assembling the GEnx engine is due in part to the gaming interface design by Float Hybrid and enabled by a SoftKinetic sensor camera which tracks your sweeping and rotating hand movements. Though modifying the motion-control capabilities proved to be somewhat of a tricky task, Rodgers says the choice to use the SoftKinetic technology was an easy one.
"There was enough complexity and wiring up the software itself to make [Throttle Up] come to life because all those interactions are bespoke and native to the experience," he says. "So we decided to start with a sensor we knew was going to work and spend time programming it to do what we want."
The Reality of Sensory FX
What makes Throttle Up an entertaining experience is ambience and technological applications—but what makes it a memorable experience are the real-life details that play to all the senses. The microcosm of floating metal bits and bobs? Real jet engine parts, all 200+ of them taken from actual CAD drawings and rendered in 3-D by Framestore. The clanking sound you hear during assembly, as well as the roar during takeoff were both captured live, balancing out another audio component Rodgers and his team gave a considerable amount of forethought to: the music. After rifling through an assortment of tracks, music production and sound design shop Stimmüng won out with a quiet futuristic melody that’s haunting enough to take notice of, but soothing enough to act as an accent to the overall experience.
"I knew from the beginning when we came up with the idea that music would play a huge part," Rodgers says. "The balance of sound effects and the music itself pulls you in and makes you feel like you have the power to build something."
It may be an oversimplified representation of incredibly complex technology, but given the spirit of Creative Week, Throttle Up was never intended to bog audiences down with intricate explanations—it’s meant to convey the basic principles of GE’s green technology in a mode technologically advanced itself, but also intuitive and engaging for audiences. "We played with a lot of different angles on it—at times we thought it could be more instructional. But this is really about awing and inspiring," says Rodgers. "And for us, it’s about pushing storytelling to a new place."