March 27, 2024

Maui Ocean Center Goes Under the Sea in 3D with LeiaSR Immersive Experiences

Imagine an aquarium where underwater worlds flow toward you from a 3D screen while you remain perfectly dry on land.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to lose yourself in any of our LeiaSR™-powered 3D displays, you see objects floating, seemingly above – or going deeper into – the screen. So, really, it only makes sense that the Maui Ocean Center wants to explore the depths with our technology. 

We spoke with Mark Matthews, Director at the Maui Ocean Center (MOC), who has been exploring what’s possible in 3D for a while. Prior to starting at the MOC, Mark worked with various brands, creating VR, AR, Projection Mapping, Gesture and more.

The center already has a huge sphere projecting a Humpback Whale 3D experience, but what is next for the facility and where does he see the future of interactive exhibits? Let’s find out.

What are you drawing inspiration from for your ideas and what you want to attempt at the Maui Ocean Center?

Mark Matthews: We want to create this deeply sort of immersive economy experience that sticks with them. I mean, you see the Meow Wolf [exhibits]. You see all those big experimental art exhibits and they're fantastic and they absolutely communicate that sense of awe and wonder and respect for the work that these people are doing. We want to capture that kind of similar feeling, but in such a way that it educates you. It changes the way you see the world. It helps move the needle on what needs to happen as we all become really responsible for this planet.

I think we can really get in there if we create an experience that they'll never forget. I’m most interested in large scale experiences that can be shared by multiple people.

Speaking of which, you already have a huge 3D feature at the MOC. What are people taking away from that experience?

We have this amazing digital 3D sphere experience that places people in proximity to a life-size whale. It is so incredibly intimate that divers have told me how authentic it is to the actual experience of it. It is a glasses-on experience and it is often cited as our guest’s favorite part of the aquarium.

It does look amazing. How would you improve upon that experience for the future?

Lowering the friction for guests to have these experiences is clutch. VR, for example, requires strapping on headsets for a singular experience, where the world around them is replaced. 3D technology is best when it adds to the world around us. It should augment our experience, not close us down and cut us off. It should foster connection in an organic way.

Well, you’re a Lume Pad 2 user and we’re obviously all about frictionless 3D. Have you been investigating ways to use LeiaSR™ technology at the MOC?

We have had great success utilizing it as a branding tool as we introduce our aquarium to the world at large. For example, in conventions, and industry events, the Lume Pad 2 allows us to show a much more accessible image of the experience here. It immediately communicates that guests who visit MOC are going to get a singular experience that they have never seen before.

I want to create an exhibit using the technology. Perhaps utilizing as windows in underwater experiences. Perhaps creating a larger version that provides up close and personal encounters with wildlife.

I hope to collaborate more with the Leia team to develop some truly original ideas.

That would be amazing if we could. Already this year, we showed off our SR Pro 2 displays — 32-inch 8K 3D panels. Tapping into your futurist side, how could you envision using this sort of technology at the MOC?

I am deeply interested in the SR Pro 2. I’d eventually love to see 90”+ screens provide 1 to 1 scale interactions. That provides a sense of presence. That engages and leaves lasting, positive impressions and associations with people regarding the world around them.

Let me put it this way: I have seen multiple ways 3D has been addressed, and have worked on many real world campaigns with emerging technology. Nothing has been even close to the immersive experiences Leia provides.

Thanks so much for the kind words, Mark, and for chatting with us today!

While there’s no 3D exhibits for it (yet), The Marine Institute at the Maui Ocean Center is also deeply involved in Turtle Rehabilitation. “Turtles get caught up in fishing lines very often and we can take them in and treat them.” Mark tells us.

They are also heavily invested in coral restoration. Corals are disappearing at an alarming rate and continue to do so due to the effects of global warming and other sort of man-instigated problems. So a lot of sedimentation goes into the ocean and that contributes to coral reef destruction. “We're creating a sort of coral ark. Think of it like the seed bank they have wherever they're storing every kind of seed in case something happens. We're storing every kind of coral. We're also learning how to make them more resilient and then we're replacing them.”

If you’d like to learn more about what the Maui Ocean Center is doing — or want to visit their amazing 3D experience next time you’re in Maui — head to Maui Ocean Center | The Aquarium of Hawai'i.

Image courtesy of Maui Ocean Center