It was the last space shuttle to go into space, so it’s fitting that Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex constructed a $100 million, 90,000-square-foot facility to honor one of the most complex machines ever built by mankind—Space Shuttle Atlantis. Packed with interactive programs, educational games, flight simulators, augmented reality viewers, and interactive media walls, the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction is equipped for the future.
To make this attraction a reality, Unified Field Inc. immersed a team of writers, researchers, designers, software engineers and 3D modelers in all things NASA. Led by Director of Programming, Jeff Miller and Senior Producer, Jason Bell, the crew created 11 interactive programs that make it possible for anyone to virtually walk in space, fly Atlantis or tour the International Space Station.
“Creating the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction presented us with the unique challenge of distilling a massive 30-year program into its most fundamental parts. From telling the stories of the people who made space travel a reality to simulating shuttle flight, docking, satellite capture, and even spacewalking, we recreated the experience of being an astronaut.”– Jason Bell, Sr. Producer Unified Field
Multimedia history of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station
Guests can spacewalk, land the shuttle, and dock the shuttle to the space station.
Augmented Reality Viewers
Explore the shuttle's internal features.
Working in conjunction with Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operators of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA, PGAV Destinations, The Nassal Company, and Design Island, Unified Field’s designers, programmers, writers, and 3D modelers crafted 11 interactive programs for the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction, which features more than 60 interactive experiences, including multimedia walls, simulators and augmented reality viewers.
“The interactives in the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction are truly cutting-edge, celebrating not only NASA’s storied history, but also its future. These multi-media experiences will honor the legacy of the 30-year Shuttle Program and spark the imaginations of the next generation of NASA astronauts.”–Eli Kuslansky, Unified Field’s Chief Strategist.
“After a collaboration with Unified Field on the THEA award winning You! The Experience at the Museum of Science and Industry, we knew that they were a natural choice for the Space Shuttle Atlantis interactives. Their programming and design knowledge is unsurpassed in the field,” —Tim Steinouer, President, Design Island.
Augmented Reality: Interacting With The Space Shuttle
At the center of the attraction, the 153,996 pound Atlantis orbiter is displayed at a 43.21° angle that gives visitors a view of the shuttle from the perspective of the International Space Station. To allow guests to explore Atlantis without touching it, Unified Field created augmented reality viewers that can pan, scan, and investigate the space shuttle to reveal hidden structures like the Orbital Maneuvering System, the cockpit, and the RS-25 cryogenic rocket engine.
Working with accurate 3D models, Sr. Interface Designer, Maureen Lin crafted an intuitive interface that invites visitors to explore an expansive stream of images, text and video fly-ins. Just by pointing the viewer at Atlantis, visitors can uncover features concealed under the shuttle’s exterior.
Visitors can take a seat in the cockpit courtesy of Atlantis 360°, another augmented reality viewer designed and developed by Unified Field. The touch screen viewer allows visitors to tilt, pan, zoom, and investigate the entire flight deck, using footage from a rotating 360° NASA gigapan camera developed to take panoramic images of Mars. The scanner lets guests examine ‘hotspots’ throughout the cockpit, explaining the myriad of onboard buttons, levers, switches and screens.
Another gigapan camera simulates the middeck, providing guests with an astronaut’s eye view of the crew’s sleeping quarters, kitchen and lockers. The viewer allows guests to experience the astronaut’s cramped living space right down to the toilet and the airlock!
Walk Like an Astronaut: The Spacewalking Pod
Ever want to walk in space? The Spacewalk Simulator will let you do just that. Housed in a domed enclosure with three LCD screens and a motion sensing device, the game enables guests to don a digital spacesuit, replete with a photograph of themselves in the helmet, and venture out into the vacuum of space.
A Sr. Programmer at Unified Field, Charles Yust, developed the game using a motion sensing device, which puts players right into the mission, using their own hands to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. When a player enters the pod, motion sensing software detects their gestures and prompts them to select a mission. Simulated radio transmissions from an astronaut trainer guide visitors through tasks, encouraging them the entire way.
“Space flight is very complex and the mission work done is exacting and time consuming. Our team needed to translate the essence of this work into tasks and activities that can be performed by everyday people with no training. However, it was essential that we stayed truthful to the realities of space flight. Striking this balance was the key to success.”–Jeff Miller, Unified Field’s Director of Technology
Media Walls: The Story of the Space Shuttle and The International Space Station
Six 52” interactive touchscreen monitors place the history of the Space Shuttle Program right at your fingertips. Multiple visitors can simultaneously explore, learn and share stories about each mission, every astronaut, and the nail biting moments that kept the folks at mission control on the edge of their seats.
Unified Field, working in collaboration with Design Island, produced an experience that brings the entire story of the Space Shuttle Program to life with imagery, video, text and 3D models and graphics. Guests can explore a range of topics and will be delighted to learn about the first can of soda in space, the oldest man to go into orbit, and how NASA’s spinoff technologies have improved life here on Earth.
“The task of researching a 30 NASA year program and everything that made it so successful from collecting thousands of images, tons of video and hundreds of bios, not to mention learning all of NASA’s acronyms, was a challenge. Working closely with Unified Field, our team did a masterful job of checking sources, speaking with NASA staff, and condensing down complex material so that it could be understood by the average guest without overwhelming them. The real goal was to inform visitors while hoping to excite them to learn more.”–Tim Steinouer, President of Design Island
Another multi-touch screen interactive wall focuses on the story of the International Space Station (ISS). Packed with information, interactive 3D models, animations, and live feeds from space, the ISS Media Wall provides both a real time as well as a historic look at the largest man-made object ever to orbit Earth. Live feeds allow guests to enter their zip code to find out when the station will pass over their houses.
Personalized browsers let museum visitors investigate a day-in-the life of an ISS crewmember and view scientific experiments and expeditions. An interactive 3D animated model illustrates the entire process of assembling the football field sized space station.
The Closest You’ll Get to Flying the Space Shuttle
Several other simulators round out Unified Field Inc.’s interactives at the Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction. The Robotic Arm Simulator puts guests at the virtual helm of one of the most sophisticated robotic arms ever constructed. Players are tasked with capturing and releasing satellites, teaching visitors how to operate the robotic arm.
Other simulators challenge guests to land the shuttle or dock it with the International Space Station, hopefully inspiring the next generation of astronauts to take us to Mars and beyond.
About Unified Field Interactive Studio
Unified Field Inc. www.unifiedfield.com/ufipress is a pioneer in the field of interactive media. For over 20 years, the firm has crafted some of the most compelling and successful multi-channel experiences and digital branding campaigns for visitor centers, cultural institutions, non-profits and Fortune 500 Companies across the world. We unify complex information with advanced technology, media and data to transform virtual and physical worlds into aesthetic experiences that are user-centric, intuitive and beautiful. We help our clients bring the promise of the future into existence now. Recent clients include: the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, General Electric, Nelson Atkins Museum, Goldman Sachs, IAC Corporation, the Franklin Institute, National Geographic, Western Union, The Federal Reserve Bank, The National Park Service, Sony Wonder Technology Lab and many others.