Habitat XR has created the largest 360° projection theatre in Africa for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund with support from Ellen DeGeneres and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The 360°, 25K gorilla experience backed by Hollywood stars

Habitat XR has launched an immersive theatre that can screen 360° films in 25K resolution at the Ellen DeGeneres campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda.

The Irmelin DiCaprio Theater has been launched with financial support from DeGeneres’ The Ellen Fund and from actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

The immersive theatre, together with AR and VR experiences on site, bring audiences within inches of digital representations of Africa’s endangered mountain gorillas, without any impact on their natural environment.

Developed from the ground up by the Habitat XR team, the theater is controlled entirely on an app and has been built to screen ultrawide 16:1 footage – or “superpanoramic” films – upscaled using AI technology.

The 360°, 25K gorilla experience backed by Hollywood stars

The theatre’s eight daisy-chained 4K laser projectors display 50 million pixels onto a 140 x 8ft canvas, constructed using high-contrast film stretched over a custom-made 3D printed frame.

This is complemented by a 10.2 matrix surround sound system, which features 37 individual speakers and two amplifiers as well as more than 2,000 square feet (185sqm) of acoustic sound panelling designed and fabricated by the team to absorb reverb and allow the spatially-captured sounds of the forest to engulf audiences.

“At Habitat XR, we believe immersive experiences can go far beyond entertaining audiences,” said Ulrico Grech-Cumbo, Habitat XR CEO. “That’s why we are so excited for audiences to visit the Irmelin DiCaprio Theater. Our dream is for the theatre, and our other XR experiences on the campus, to bring people closer to gorillas than ever before; to fill them with empathy and understanding and to inspire them to take action.”

At launch, the theatre is screening two original film experiences. The first, titled A Day in the Life of Gorillas and produced by Habitat XR and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, follows four-year-old mountain gorilla Gasizi and gives unprecedented insight into his family, known as Pablo’s Group.

The 360°, 25K gorilla experience backed by Hollywood stars

The second film, Saving Mountain Gorillas: The Dian Fossey Legacy, produced by the National Geographic Society’s Impact Media Lab in collaboration with Habitat XR, explores both the history and future of gorilla conservation at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Outside the theatre, audiences can immerse themselves in gorilla behaviours at the touch of a tablet using Habitat XR’s custom-developed, controller-free VR kiosks.

In the lush gardens of the campus, which mimic the gorillas’ natural habitat, visitors can embark on a virtual gorilla trek with Habitat XR’s GorillAR augmented reality iPad app, which sees a photoreal CGI silverback gorilla leading visitors on an interactive and educational foraging adventure along the actual trails.

The front-facing camera analyses real shadows on the viewer’s face to approximate lighting on the virtual hero gorilla in all light conditions, resulting in the best possible blending with the surrounding environment. The three Apple iPad Pro M1 devices are housed in special cases designed by Habitat XR and 3D printed using biodegradable cornstarch to mimic the volcanic rock textures that are prevalent in northern Rwanda.

Dr Tara Stoinski, president and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, said: “Technology can play a major role in shaping people’s attitudes toward nature, and we’re proud to incorporate some of the most cutting-edge storytelling tools into our new home to help further tell the story of gorillas and our 55 years of conservation work in Rwanda.”

Along with conservation, another key goal of the project for Habitat XR was to challenge the convention that technological innovation doesn’t happen in Africa. “We’ve created one of the world’s most advanced projection theatres and envelope-pushing AR experiences,” said Grech-Cumbo, “and it’s adjacent to a rainforest in the heart of Africa.”

Reference : AVinteractive