DOVE 360: Immersive VR Theater & Shipbuilding Touchscreens

Visitors of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum interact with a VR theatre, allowing for a socially-accessible immersive experience.
Visitors to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum watch the story of the Maryland Dove in an immersive theater.

In collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Night Kitchen Interactive installed a VR Dome theater and a series of touchscreen games to tell the story of the Maryland Dove. The theater showcases a series of immersive films, ranging from a sailing trip through the Chesapeake Bay on the historic Dove to a time-lapse series of the Maryland Dove reconstruction being built at the museum. At the nearby Boatshop, a “Sail the Seas!” touchscreen game allows visitors to build a ship, sail across the ocean, and attempt to break ground in a new colony. This media combination immerses visitors in the Dove‘s history and illustrates the 17th-Century shipbuilding techniques being used by CBMM shipwrights on the Dove reconstruction project.

To reinforce the content of this immersive experience, a nearby "Sail the Seas!" touchscreen game allows visitors to build a ship, sail across the ocean, and attempt to break ground in a new colony.
To reinforce the content of this immersive experience, a touchscreen game called “Sail the Seas!” allows visitors to build a ship, sail across the ocean, and attempt to break ground in a new colony.

The Ark and Dove were the two ships that English settlers used to establish the new colony of Maryland in 1633. The Ark was a large 400 ton capacity cargo ship that brought settlers across the Atlantic Ocean, and the smaller Dove was used to maneuver the shallow inlets of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is currently building a reproduction of the Maryland Dove based on new archaeological findings, and this media experience seeks to connect visitors with the project.

To capture the ship’s history, two immersive videos were filmed aboard an older reproduction of the Dove built in the 1970s. These videos feature unique vantage points from the crow’s nest, sailing demonstrations by colonial reenactors from Historic St. Mary’s City, stunning vistas of the Chesapeake Bay, and supporting photographs, maps, and ship renderings. Visitors can experience sailing this historic ship from a dry, safe, and accessible location in the museum.

Visitors can experience sailing this historic ship from a dry, safe, and accessible location in the museum.
Sailors in period costume from Historic St. Mary’s City set sail on the 1970s Maryland Dove. Visitors can experience sailing this historic ship from a dry, safe, and accessible location in the immersive VR theater.

Night Kitchen installed a 15-foot Panorama theater with a touchscreen pedestal where visitors can queue up and control the VR videos. The touchscreen interface enables visitors to freely look around the VR videos by tapping and swiping. This display method delivers immersive content without the  accessibility, hygiene, and maintenance challenges of a VR headset. A series of “Sail the Seas!” touchscreens in the nearby Boat Shop accompany this theater, connecting visitors to the real shipbuilding work happening on-site and allowing them to share their creations online.

As construction of the new Maryland Dove is presently underway, a VR time-lapse camera is recording each step of the building process. A content management system allows for periodic VR video updates to the immersive theater. Most recently, a VR timelapse compilation of the Lofting process was integrated into the exhibit, demonstrating how shipwrights lay out curves and frames to guarantee that the final ship fits together correctly. These time-lapse updates are released every few months, allowing visitors to follow the shipbuilding process over time.

Shipwrights at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum attach the transom to the new Maryland Dove on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

To help visitors understand the future of this project, Night Kitchen created 3D models of the new Maryland Dove based on plans from Naval Architect Iver Franzen. A “Sail the Seas” touchscreen game, located in the nearby Boatshop, uses these models to break down the process of building a 17th Century colonial ship. Players must examine each component of the ship, assemble pieces in the correct order, select the appropriate materials, and set sail. A “Learn More” button provides hints, defines tools, and showcases related images.

Visitors to the boatshop practice shipbuilding techniques with a digital activity. After building a ship, they can try to sail it across the ocean in an attempt to found a new colony.
Visitors to the CBMM Boatshop practice shipbuilding techniques with a digital game activity. After building a ship, they can try to sail it across the ocean in an attempt to found a new colony.

Depending on the choices made, the ship may be successful, stall in the English Channel, or meet a watery fate at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. After the voyage is complete, visitors can name and customize their ships, share them online, and compare their work to the most recent ships built by other visitors: https://www.marylanddove.org/sailtheseas

The shipbuilding activity uses accurately-sized 3D models, based on drawings from Naval Architect Iver Franzen, to walk visitors through the process of designing and building a ship. Contextual "Learn More" buttons allow visitors to make more informed choices about their ship design, changing factors such as speed, balance, and maneuverability.
The shipbuilding activity uses accurately-sized 3D models, based on drawings from Naval Architect Iver Franzen, to walk visitors through the process of designing and building a ship. “Learn More” buttons allow visitors to make more informed choices about their ship design, changing factors such as speed, balance, and maneuverability.

This project is evolving, so be sure to check http://www.marylanddove.org/ for updates!