An emotive journey on the heels of an endangered apex predator

Put yourself in the shoes of a forest ranger, deep in the Nepal Terai Forest, working with the WWF to aid in conservation efforts of one of Earth’s most evocative mammals. This is an experience very few people get to take in the real world, but through the use of VR, an insight into the dark world of tiger poaching can be explored at a safe distance. Working with BEcause Experiential Marketing, Austella created the powerful VR experience that formed the centrepiece of the WWF “Tiger Experience”; a campaign that was spearheaded by roadshows across London over a 12-day period, as well as a supporting social media campaign and several high-profile celebrity endorsements.

 

The experience takes viewers through a beautifully rendered environment, following tiger footsteps as they meander through the forest. All the time the viewer is led by the reassuring voice of a real life WWF ranger. The suspense builds as the user views footage from a camera trap; heading further into the forest the viewer gets an understanding of the dangers as a lizard springs a snare intended for the graceful cat. The experience culminates in a face-to-face moment with the tigress as she walks with her cub, and then…a single gunshot wakes the forest, chaos ensues and the cub is all alone.

The aim of experience was to raise awareness and understanding of this important issue; over 95% of the world’s wild tiger population has vanished over the last century, with only around 3,900 left. Tiger numbers are for the first time in a century on the rise, and this is in no small part due to the great work done by the WWF, but pledges of support are essential for this work to continue.

 

The brief was to create an authentic, photo-realistic experience that was capable of running on a mobile phone. The route we decided therefore was to create a pre-rendered 360 video, which met the requirement of ultra-high detail running on a mobile device, but posed challenges in telling the story.

The obvious issue is how to ensure the viewer is looking in the correct orientation when critical story elements are unfolding. We used a number of diversion techniques, for example the use of a lizard, butterflies and birds to draw the viewers’ attention to areas of interest. The second issue is of the viewer (or more accurately, tester) becoming de-sensitised – as developers we knew where we were supposed to look and so naturally followed the story, each iteration therefore meant finding someone new to test whether our diversion techniques were effective!

 

Audio plays a big part in the experience, significantly increasing the sense of immersion. We wanted to create an experience that was emotive and powerful but at the same time, not scare the viewer. We achieved this by adding a heartbeat that steadily increased in intensity and frequency as the experience progressed culminating in the face-to-face with the tigress and her cub, but balanced that with the reassuring, calm walkie-talkie announcements sourced from a real life WWF ranger.

Results 

The WWF experience was viewed by 5,000 people over the duration of the activations, leading to 21% more customer adoptions than targeted. The conclusion being that immersive technology such as VR can be used to create unique stories and experiences that offer something new to target audiences.

See more about how we created this experience in our Developer Blog section