In 2012 the USC World Building Media Lab (WbML), lead by Lab Director Alex Mcdowell, launched a multi-year collaboration between students, researchers, and Intel to explore the future of storytelling within the emerging mediums of AR and VR. The project, based on Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, takes place in 1895, twenty years prior to the source material. In Westerfeld’s story, World War I is re-imagined with bio-engineered fabricated animals replacing technology and facing off against large mechanical robots. While the books focus on the tension of war, The Leviathan Project emphasizes the experimental exploration in to the concept of fabricated animals. By taking place earlier than the series, the project builds a world of wonder and amazement for the unknown and the unexpected possibilities that can suddenly arise.
The research experimentation into Augment Reality narrative experiences inspired Intel to showcase WbML’s work at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). As the WbML Senior Research Associate, (now RareFaction co-founder) Bradley Newman led the effort to assemble a team of professionals working with 5D Global Studio @ WONDROS, recruiting Adam Saslow (RareFaction’s other co-founder) as the Engineering Lead in the process. The team’s work at CES 2014 featured three innovative and well-received experiences.
During Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s Keynote Address, which kicked off Intel’s participation at CES, the team executed a live augmented reality and big screen compositing experience which featured the Leviathan - a giant whale airship - flying in a gigantic conference hall at the Las Vegas Venetian hotel. Over 2,000 people in attendance marveled at the experience.
On the CES show floor, the team created two networked, shared-space interactive experiences at Intel’s booth which also featured creatures from the Leviathan world. In an experience named “Spotlight”, the team worked with augmented technology company Metaio to create a multiplayer, augmented reality experience featuring the Leviathan emerging from a giant screen, deploying flying jellyfish-like creatures called Huxleys that flew down to Intel-powered 2-in-1 ultrabooks which served as the platform for the experience.
In January of 2016, the 5D Global Studio @ Wondros team collaborated once again with Intel along with NaturalPoint, Oculus, and Unity Technologies in the creation of a Mixed Reality experience which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Exhibition. Using a combination of motion-capture technology, the Oculus Rift, and traditional set-building, the team created a novel experience in which real-world objects were built, tracked, and displayed in the virtual world. Instead of using an input device such as a game controller to interact with virtual objects, players could actually pick them up in the physical world using their hands. Using this haptic interaction, the player was tasked with manipulating canisters, vials, and levers in the creation of a genetically modified Huxley which interacted with the player upon its creation.
More information on the project can be found here: http://worldbuilding.usc.edu/projects/the-leviathan