Frost Museum of Science Brings Wonders of Sea, Space Closer Than Ever

Miami’s latest high-tech addition, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, uses 8K, virtual reality and immersive technology to dazzle visitors.

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AVI-SPL helped to make Miami's Frost Museum of Science one of the area's most technologically advanced spaces to learn about the world around us.

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When we first wrote about the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in 2012, consultants were searching for an integrator to create an eye-popping, visually stimulating and immersive experience that used the surroundings to its advantage.

Enter AVI-SPL, which joined the design and AV integration team about a year ago and played a key role in developing some sections of the long-awaited museum that will likely garner much of the attention, now that the 250,000-square-foot facility is officially open to the public, about a decade after the idea was imagined.

To see additional images of the museum, click here.

AVI-SPL installed a large LED wall, an interactive dance floor, and multiple galleries in the Frost Museum and integrated iPad control in each area of the massive space using a Crestron and Medialon control systems. A global data network is equipped throughout the facility, which allows the rooms to “talk” to each other, says Brooks Weisblat, VP of technology at the museum.

Education and Exploration

In addition to the exhibition spaces in aquarium and planetarium, the Frost Museum also houses two large wings in the north and west sections of the building that can host large events and meetings and also feature classrooms loaded with technology.

The circular shape of the museum made for some challenging moments, says AVI-SPL engineer Darren Hirst, but they installed a multi-point audio system and brought in an audio expert from the U.K.

The circular shape of the museum made for some challenging moments, says AVI-SPL engineer Darren Hirst, but they installed a multi-point audio system and brought in an audio expert from the U.K. to “make good on their vision.”

The classrooms are each equipped with 85-inch screens with audio and video control systems, each with room for as many as 30 laptops, meaning they’re ideal for parties and camps.

This section of the building is a nod to the roots of the former Miami Science Museum and Planetarium, which dates back about 60 years and was founded primarily with the goal of helping underprivileged students experience something they might not otherwise get the chance to see. That building closed almost two years ago as construction moved forward on the Frost building.

“We’ve always had the idea to build something larger,” says Weisblat, noting the old museum was about 60,000 square feet, less than one-quarter of the size of the new Frost Museum.

In addition to the building’s advantageous size, the Frost Museum’s new location near American Airlines Arena and the Port of Miami should make it more attractive for people than the old location, which was in a more run-down area of the city.

Taking the Frost Museum Tour

The most popular part of the aquarium is likely to be the 500,000-gallon tank that includes all forms of sea life from sharks and mahi tuna to a touch tank where visitors can truly have a hands-on experience during their visits.

Grimshaw Architects created a vertical experience where guests first encounter stunning aquatic ecosystems at the open-air surface level, then descend below the waterline into a more intimate and immersive interior space. The most dominant feature is the 100-foot-wide, 500,000-gallon cone-shaped tank, which spans three floors and provides corner-less cruising for fish of the open ocean. The bottom of the cone doubles as the ceiling of the Baptist Health South Florida Gallery.

The aquarium features a 90-foot long, 4K projected interactive digital media wall, depicting an open ocean ecosystem; a shark helmet using VR technology to portray life from the shark’s point of view; and VR telescopes on the upper Vista level revealing Biscayne Bay in centuries past.

“This was a large-scale construction project,” says AVI-SPL project manager Ed Cardozzo. “It was a challenge to stay on schedule with so many moving pieces. For a project of this size, it went very well.”

The planetarium features one of the few 8K theaters in the world, with six Christie projectors and a 3×3 video wall of 55-inch LED screens bringing the audience closer to the show than they ever could have imagined.

The Frost Planetarium, which takes people on a high-resolution journey to outer space, has a 16-million-color 8K visual system, 8K projection system, 3D projection, 16-speaker surround sound system and seamless 67-foot diameter full-dome screen tilted forward at 23.5 degrees, so images move through the entire field of vision.

The River of Grass interactive exhibit is a large-scale projected environment depicting a day in the life of the Everglades. Guests enter a video game-like three-dimensional scene where they interact with digital renditions of alligators, Florida panthers and roseate spoonbills and use movement and physical props to alter the environment and learn about it.

Technology includes nearly 800 square feet of high-resolution projection surface on floor and three walls; 16 high-resolution projectors; eight-channel directional audio; seven 3D capture cameras tracking guests’ positions and gestures, creating interactivity and state-of-the-art interactive water physics simulations.

MeLaβ uses interactive technology to lead guests into an investigation of how different lifestyle choices can lead to a healthier, happier life. This includes digital check-in points where guests track progress and provide health data; an interactive dance floor; multi-player digital interactive games exploring diet, viruses and more; immersive relax pods monitoring heart rate and stress; technology spotlights featuring the latest in medical innovation and a responsive gallery-wide light show.

Future Frost Museum Plans

Hirst says AVI-SPL staffers will continue tweaking the show control side of the Frost Museum now that the building is open and staffers can see how people are interacting with the system.

Frost AV manager Marcus Montgomery says all IT staffers will be trained in every nook and cranny of the system along with three members of the AV team.

Frost Science is working toward LEED Gold certification.

As the years moved forward and the museum’s opening delayed from the original 2015 target, that added pressure to the team to ensure the technology installed kept pace with those changes and exceeded people’s expectations.

“People expect bigger and better things,” says Weisblat.

Although it might seem like staffers spared no expense in getting Frost ready for its long-anticipated opening, there were some ideas that will have to wait until later. Weisblat wants to see complete building control in the future, including life safety, energy, back-of-the-house functions and more.

Frost Science is working toward LEED Gold certification, and data from the building’s leading-edge sustainability initiatives will soon be available to students and others involved in creating a better future for the planet.

The Frost Science mobile app provides access to individualized museum experiences. Once in the museum, visitors can use the app to guide their visits, including a virtual scavenger hunt to gain badges and enhanced exhibit content such as videos and soundscapes.