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  • Posted by Michael Wolf on
    Interactive installation creates awareness for the threatened Cape Leopard
  • Lithe, beautiful and elusive, the Cape Mountain Leopard is engaged in a silent battle for survival. Can an innovative interactive game save its life? Perhaps not, but it can raise awareness for this threatened species. There are less than 1000 Cape Leopards surviving in the wild today. Small and solitary, it is an apex predator in the mountainous regions of the Western Cape. It preys largely on klipspringers and dassies. As farms have encroached on leopard territory, sheep have been added to the menu. Farmers trap and kill leopards to protect their livestock. The Cape Leopard Trust was formed in 2004 to address this human wildlife conflict. Camera traps are used to track and research the elusive cats. Data they collect helps keep both leopards and livestock safe.
  • Nestled in the Franschhoek valley between mountain and vineyards is a wine farm with a passion for cats. Leopard’s Leap was started at the turn of the century by winemaker Hein Koegelenberg under the guidance of his father-in-law, Anton Rupert. Leopard’s Leap exports fine wine to some 25 international markets. It is also the sponsor of the Cape Leopard Trust. Rupert was amongst many other things, a committed conservationist. By sponsoring the Trust, Leopard’s Leap honours his legacy. Recognising that education is the key to protecting Cape Mountain Leopards, Leopard’s Leap commissioned Formula D interactive to design and build an educational leopard display for their visitor centre, which was recently designed by Makeka Design Lab.
  • The result is an interactive wall projection loaded with game-enhancing technology. The 3-meter projection loops realistically rendered animations of Cedearberg landscapes. Three different sets of day and night scenes are displayed. When visitors step in front of the wall, their virtual avatars appear on the screen in front of them. Each visitor is randomly assigned an avatar and up to 3 people can interact with the multimedia application at the same time. The interactive installation is embedded with information about leopards and conservation. But this is no run-of-the-mill infographic. Players are encouraged to discover content by themselves, just as a researcher would in the field. Moving freely across the floor, each player can trigger different hotspots on the screen, uncovering information as they go.
  • The technology that enables this tracking is the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect controller. A series of built-in sensors detects a player’s body posture and responds to his or her movement. Once sensors are activated, the Interactive Leopard Wall loads an avatar of the player that mimics this movement. The wall can even track a player in 3D space, making it that much easier for them to move up and down the landscape. When a hotspot is activated a clipboard appears on the screen, displaying text, animated drawings and movie clips. Day scenes teach users about cape leopards and their environment. In each of the night scenes, players are challenged to find 2 hidden leopards. As players move in front of the projection, they may get lucky and trigger one of the camera traps.
  • This then triggers a camera flash and shutter sound together with footage and description of an animal. Players will not only uncover hidden leopards, but other nocturnal animals as well. Sound effects and ambient noises are played by a special overhead directional speaker. The Directional Audio array produces a circular sound pattern directed vertically downwards. This creates an immersive and focused sound environment. Formula D’s interactive leopard wall is the talking point of the Leopard’s Leap visitor centre. With multi-layered information previously unavailable to visitors to the Cape Winelands, it will surely play an important role in raising awareness about the plight of the beautiful Cape Mountain Leopard.