When Long Beach, Calif.-based Aquarium of the Pacific, the largest aquarium in southern California. opened its new Pacific Visions wing, it reached out to Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Epson as a technology partner to help make the space as accessible and inclusive as possible.
Disrupting the Current with Accessible Technology
The Aquarium of the Pacific welcomes and ensures guests of all abilities can experience the exhibits and learn about the ocean. When designing the Pacific Visions expansion, it consulted Haben Girma as an advisor to ensure the new wing is fully accessible. Girma is the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. Girma is also an advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
Within the new wing resides the state-of-the-art, immersive Honda Pacific Visions Theater. The theater’s design keeps accessibility in mind. It features virtual touch technology for visitors who are deaf and blind to “feel” the film using mid-air touch haptics. To deliver a hands-free closed captioning experience for guests, the Aquarium then turned to Epson’s Moverio smart glasses.
The Aquarium was preparing for its annual Festival of Human Abilities, which celebrates the creative talents and abilities of people with disabilities. For this, the Aquarium experimented with Moverio for English and Spanish closed captioning. What’s more, its media server company previously developed an app that worked seamlessly with Moverio right out of the box.
“Prior to implementing Moverio, we had a handheld system for closed captioning, meaning users would have to look down and up throughout showings. If someone is hard of hearing, they can miss 20 percent of content in doing that,” states Darek Balsillie, director of AV and IT, Aquarium of the Pacific. “Patrons really liked the fact that they didn’t have to hold anything and could keep looking at the screen with the captions in their line of sight, allowing them to see the whole picture.”
After the theater show, visitors enter the Culmination Gallery that features a massive interactive wall, games tables and animal exhibits. To draw attention to the tabletop interactive area and enhance the space, the Aquarium integrated Epson’s LightScene accent lighting laser projectors.
“LightScene served the goal that we wanted, to let people see where the interactive is before they get close,” adds Balsillie. “One of my associates made these animations, it’s not just static but spins in a circle. People always go up and step on it, trying to figure out where it’s coming from.”
Using the Moverio smart glasses, ‘Patrons really liked the fact that they didn’t have to hold anything and could keep looking at the screen with the captions in their line of sight, allowing them to see the whole picture.’
Darek Balsillie, director of AV and IT, Aquarium of the Pacific
Adding in LightScene Projectors
The LightScene projectors display iconic graphics – food, water, energy – that match the interactive activity to attract guests to the station. The laser projectors also transform the exit of the theater and entrance to the gallery with eye-catching digital signage that spells out “Join the Experience Now.” The phrases spins back and forth so people coming from each direction can clearly read the phrase.
Designed as a dynamic space, the Culmination Gallery will support changing exhibits and updated messaging to reflect relevant conservation topics. Moreover, Epson’s LightScene projectors will support the Aquarium in providing engaging visitor interactions in this flexible gallery.
Navigating the Depths of Distance Learning
Once COVID-19 hit, the Aquarium took measures to ensure the safety of its guests by embracing distance learning lessons. The Aquarium’s education efforts strive to provide an inquiry-based program. Here, it encourages students to act like scientists in observing and thinking about what they are seeing.
Having the hands-on, interactive piece is pivotal to the program. As a result, it forced the Aquarium to rethink its approach to lessons. In the early months of 2020, it went right into producing five live virtual classes a day because there was no content out there.
Requiring the best tools and technology to bring lessons to life, the Aquarium integrated Epson’s document cameras to better engage with both virtual and in-person students. “Once we could have visitors onsite again, we were trying to figure out how to best engage kids safely with distancing,” notes Yates. “The document camera allowed us to show amazing biofacts like abalone shells and otter pelts in a way that felt more interactive to kids onsite.”
As the Aquarium continues to provide dynamic programs and innovative exhibits, Epson’s technology solutions have become a staple in making the experience accessible, interactive and educational.