St. Louis Aquarium Live-Streaming Interactive Animated “Otter Chat” in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic – XR for Good
The St. Louis Aquarium opened its doors in December 2019 to much fanfare and celebration. The aquarium has over 13,000 animals, including over 30 species of sharks, rays, and all sorts of other sea life.
Who would have thought that in a short few months, the aquarium would be temporarily shut down? Its guests stuck at home due to an international pandemic?
To keep in touch with their audience, the aquarium began live-streaming from their location. On April 2nd, they live-streamed an interactive talk show called Otter Chat, featuring the animated Tommy the Otter. Groove Jones created the system that allows the aquarium staff to control the system remotely and easily plug into existing streaming services. More on the original production – https://www.groovejones.com/otter-chat-an-interactive-animated-show-at-the-st-louis-aquarium/
The Otter Chat event featured their virtual otter, Tommy. Tommy chatted with social media director Amber Lanwermeyer and Josh, one of the aquarium’s handlers, about river otters and other animals in the aquarium. They asked Tommy questions submitted by aquarium visitors and fans via the Facebook chat feature.
The key change about this live stream is Otter Chat was built for an on-site attraction, with a live audience.
So how do you pivot from a live on-site event? You plug it into an existing platform where your audience is – online and at home!
This Is What the Audience Saw
The video feed was live-streamed via Facebook Live on the St. Louis Aquarium’s Facebook page. You could tune in to the live experience which aired in the AM. The show consisted of live-action staff on a stage interacting with the digital “Otter Chat” show.
In the First 24 Hours, the Show has been Viewed over 25K Times
The “Tommy The Otter” Facebook Live event has been an instant hit! The 30-minute live stream has been viewed over 25,000 times since it was live-streamed and has received over 1K comments! (The original stream had 2K viewers, the rebroadcast has seen over 23K in 24 hours.)
The audience reception isn’t just from the St. Louis area, they are worldwide. The comments have been fantastic, engaging and encouraging to the staff.
“My son has a tee that says “An otter is my spirit animal.” If he could have an otter as a pet, all his dreams would come true. 😂😂“
“Y’all. This quarantine has finally done me in… I’m seeing a freakin’ talking otter. 😲“
“Twins Noah and Jackson want to know if otters have best friends?”
“So excited to see the otters!”
“I love this, is very educational for kids and not only kids but adults. In a time like this we need things like this to keep families and children occupied and be educated at the same time.”
“Thank you for doing this.”
“This was my favorite part of the aquarium. Love the interactive Otter show.”
“Otter Chat” is an interactive talk show attraction that consists of an interactive improvisational conversation with Tommy the Otter, a North American River Otter, and the star of the show. The technology allows the aquarium to teach guests about otters, conservation and educational fact about how they live.
The application is real-time, so plugging it into live streaming services like Facebook Live, Instagram Live or even Twitch isn’t difficult. Below are platforms we could tap into and broadcast through.
Plugging it into a teleconferencing system like Zoom, Uber Conference, Skype or GoTo Meeting is just as simple with a little extra coding to integrate the presenter’s dashboard.
The presenter who is controlling Tommy the Otter is remote and can see the two human presenters via a live audio and video stream.
The live streams are called “Virtual Breakfast with the Otters” and begin in the morning at 10:00 CST, during the weekdays. Link to the St. Louis Aquarium Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/aquariumstl/
Guests can now watch and engage with the hosts as well as with Tommy by streaming the Facebook Live event through their phone, tv, or desktop. You can invite your friends and family to join you by hosting watch parties and submit questions via the Facebook chat. Which Tommy the Otter will answer in real-time.
The show is a blend of computer graphic techniques, educational content, and comedic improvisation by staff behind the scenes.
the aquarium promoted the event on their social channels and followers and fans could schedule a calendar invite for the live stream. (5K people responded to the invite and over 2K joined for the live event.)
After the event was over, you could schedule watch parties with your friends on Facebook for a shared experience.
Real-Time Animation System for Guest Engagement
“Otter Chat” uses our GrooveTech™ Performance Capture System, a system that allows actors to control the fully animated character in the theater attraction area. The tool consists of a facial tracking camera system that allows the actor to talk to the audience and automatically lip-sync their voice and movements to the animated character.
This tracking and animation are rendered on the fly and are projected at 60 frames per second. Making Tommy the Otter’s mouth move in synchronization with the actor’s voice.
We are using a VR (virtual reality) setup and can stream live to all types of streaming or teleconferencing platforms. The experience is real-time and can be broadcasted anywhere in the world from any location.
The new talk show event included Amber (Social Media) and Josh (animal trainer) on location for the event. (This, of course, isn’t necessary for an animated show, but it connected the dots to showcase the area where the original production on-site would take place.
Groove Jones can create a custom show and license our GrooveTech™ Performance Capture System for your next live-stream or on-site production.
See the Full Case Study – https://www.groovejones.com/otter-chat-an-interactive-animated-show-at-the-st-louis-aquarium/