Once the Eurostar plunges underwater, surely only the most worldweary among us aren’t secretly imaging what we might be able to see out the window, were it not pitch black and encased in a tunnel. While we may never know what sharks, buried treasure, mermaids etc. might really be lurking in the Channel, agency AKQA has had a good go at bringing it all to life with a new VR experience, Eurostar Odyssey.
Throughout the summer specially designed smartphone headsets will be distributed during peak family travel periods that show “the hidden depths of the sea bed,” according to Eurostar, offering up a “virtual world of sea creatures, sunken treasures and mysterious sea-scapes.” AKQA says: “The beauty of Odyssey is that it’s not only entertaining, but also educational. It was important for us to make the experience authentic so we conducted a lot of research into underwater flora and fauna. Of course, we then weave in a bit of fantasy.”
The beginning of the experience shows the roof of the virtual train transform into a glass ceiling, through which this underwater world is revealed. AKQA created two “ocean explorer” characters, Rose and Benoit, that guide the users through the virtual stories that unfold, including pirates, lost treasure, encounters with mermaids and a meeting with “a charismatic octopus.” There is also a gaming element that allows users to compete with other travellers to count the different underwater species they spot throughout the journey.
According to AKQA, the gaming element was added to add to the interactivity, “and to encourage people to return to it – especially frequent Eurostar customers. People want to be in charge of their own stories; Odyssey allows users to choose what they want to look at and when and have their own personalised adventure.”
AKQA began work on Odyssey early this year, and has worked with Eurostar for the past few years on various projects, and according to its Paris studio, “the main challenge Eurostar wanted to solve was enriching the overall travel experience so it was more than a case of getting from A to B.” It continues, “after brainstorming with the Eurostar team, we noticed that children (and even adults) often questioned whether they would be able to see fish and other sea life when travelling through the Channel tunnel. Thus, the idea for Odyssey was born.
“The main goal was to lay the ground for a new service that would evolve over time, rather than being a one off project. Every detail of the experience was carefully considered so it can be scaled for future Eurostar VR adventures.”
Travellers can access the experience for free by logging on to Eurostar’s onboard entertainment system through an Apple or Android device on new e320 and refurbished e300 train services between London and Paris, Lille, Brussels, Lyon and the South of France.
AKQA is no stranger to subaquatic landscapes, having previously created BBC Worldwide’s Story of Life app, featuring over 1,000 clips from the past 60 years of Sir David Attenborough’s work in nature broadcasts.