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The “River of Grass” Everglades immersive experience, designed by a South African interactive design firm has been internationally and awarded a Gold A’ Design Award in the Interface and Interaction Design Category of the international A’ Design Competition. The Golden A’ design award was awarded to the firm’s immersive media experience titled River of Grass designed for and installed at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami Florida, in the US.

This exhibition was designed to transport young children and their parents to the Everglades’ tropical wetland ecosystem in Florida using interactive technology and animation where they can interact with the environment and play with the creatures that reside within this 1.5-million-acre wetland.

The Everglades is often compared to a grassy, slow-moving river, made up of coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods that is ‘home’ to hundreds of animal species such as the leatherback turtle, Florida panther and West Indian manatee; a dangerous environment to venture into, especially for children. This experience allows visitors of all ages to experience this spectacular ecosystem in a safe, non-intrusive way preserving the actual physical environment of the real Everglades, but still making the educational experience accessible to the Frost Museum of Science’s visitors.

The experience is set up in a large room (18 meters long) and is equipped, floor-to-ceiling, with 16 HD projectors, motion sensors and a sound system. Four software servers are responsible for the wall and floor images, animation and processing of real-time movements and the relevant sounds. Custom software was developed for the animal and water flow animation to allow visitors to ‘play’ with the animals and water, thereby affecting the environment.

The FDi team also designed physical wood-stumps that can be dumped in the water and change the flow direction of the projected water. With the help of drama requisites such as the wood-stumps and oversized flashlights used during the night-setting of the experience, a ‘virtual reality’ is created where visitors can observe the impact of human interaction with the environment first-hand; during the day, visitors can play with the birds and crocodiles, interrupt the waterflow of the river and swat mosquitos, and at night they can try to detect the nocturnal animals like the Everglades’ Barred owl or the Florida panther with physical, oversized flash-lights.

The Frost Science Museum celebrated their 1 year anniversary in May this year and recently also honoured their one millionth visitor. The River of Grass is one of their key attractions, and has been explored and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people in just its first year.

According to the assessment panel, the golden A’ Award is only awarded for “excellent designs that enhances visitors’ experience of educational exhibitions through enhanced functionality, performance, reliability and interactivity” which furthers this specific firm’s objective of setting a high standard for ethical, educational-focused interactive design that makes a difference locally in South Africa, Africa and internationally. Formula D interactive’s Formula D CEO Michael Wolf is proud that the company’s design team had the opportunity to demonstrate their ability on an international high profile project. ”

Our multiple award winning 4D VR experience “Shark Sense” was also awarded an iron A’Award in the same category, Interface and Interaction Design.

“We are really happy our work had gotten this recognition. It’s a huge confidence boost to our team as they understand that they are amongst the best of their field internationally.