Perhaps you’ve spent time on the Atlanta BeltLine’s East Side Trail — it’s a lovely and transporting space in the heart of the city, but unlikely to contain any inter-dimensional portals. That is, until July 2021, when the new fully immersive experience-based attraction Illuminarium is set to open on the BeltLine off of Ralph McGill Boulevard. At its first exhibit, “WILD: Safari Experience,” visitors will explore a virtual African landscape that activates all the senses, even smell. The attraction’s interactive environments respond to visitors’ movements using an array of cutting-edge technologies. Illuminarium CEO Alan Greenberg and Executive Vice President of Technology and Content Brian Allen joined “City Lights” Senior Producer Kim Drobes to describe the new attraction and how it was created.
Why immersive, and why the BeltLine?
“I think it’s no secret that there are some amazing experiences that have opened all over the world,” Greenberg said. “Things like Team Lab in Tokyo, and Atelier des Lumières in Paris, and Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. And we saw these trends, in what some people call the experience economy, and thought we could do something really special.”
“We saw the location on the BeltLine and it just felt perfect,” Greenberg said. “We just loved the energy — you know, when you’re on the BeltLine you’re kind of on an adventure, and we just loved that vibe. So, when we saw it, we went, ‘We’re going to put the world’s first Illuminarium here. We were actually looking in New York City for a long time to find the right spot, but when we saw this one, we said, ‘Let’s start here.’”
What is Illuminarium?
“What I like to say is, we have created, and are creating, a new media format,” Allen said. “We have a very large and beautiful canvas for audio, video, interaction, a true multisensory experience. And the advent of multiple technologies, including native 4k laser projection, audio tech capabilities, interactive capabilities powered by lidar, scent capabilities, allowed me and the team to really layer technologies together, to be more of a supporting character for the content that gets displayed.”
“When you walk into an Illuminarium, when you come to our Safari experience, you’re going to see it like reality, you’re going to hear it in an extraordinary way, you’re going to feel it, because of the haptic systems in our floor that give you … a rumble effect in your body, you’re going to smell it through our sense systems, and you’re actually going to affect it, through the lidar interactive system,” Greenberg said. “So when you’re walking down a dirt path, on our floors you’ll actually pick up dust as you walk … when you walk on the surface of the moon, you’ll actually leave footprints.”
Like virtual reality, but communal:
“Illuminarium is, in many ways, VR without the glasses, or without the headset,” Greenberg said. “And what that allows you to do, is to have a shared experience … to go to Africa with somebody, as you typically would, and to share those ‘wow’ moments, those head-turning moments of life.
“We think there’s never been a better time for people to come back together in a communal experience, which you just can’t do with VR.”