Flying on Water

Interactive exhibitry for America's Cup Pavilion.

  • Dates: 2013
  • Location: America's Cup Pavilion, San Francisco, CA
  • Role: Software Director
  • Collaborators:
    • Obscura Digital
    • Iwamoto Scott Architecture
    • Oracle
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To introduce the million-plus visitors to the AC72 catamaran, the design specification for yachts entering the 2013 race, Obscura created an interactive projection experience for the public. Named “Flying on Water” and installed on the waterfront at Pier 29 in San Francisco, the exhibit offered visitors the opportunity to explore the interplay of wind, water, and state-of-the-art yachting technology.

The experience began with a tactile wall that presented the basic concepts of composite material technology. Visitors could then explore a 14-foot-tall digital 3D model of the AC72 using a large, glowing glass track ball. With material and model knowledge in hand, visitors were invited to discover why the yacht uses fixed wings like an airplane. They entered and activated a kiosk, in which 12 knots of wind began to blow from an acrylic tube. By inserting a hand, each visitor could change pressure differentials to affect the speed and bearing of the model yacht projected in front of them.

The most riveting achievement of the AC72 is its ability to “fly” on water, which inspired Obscura to teach visitors the physics of hydrofoiling. In the next kiosk, a water pump lifted a miniature hydrofoil, providing a direct view into the water. Visitors could depress the hydrofoil, which in turn raised the projected catamaran onto its foils, causing its speed to accelerate to twice the wind speed. When maximum speed was reached, facts were displayed that gave further context to “flying on water.”

By encouraging behaviors to activate learning moments, the exhibit was an educational experience that proved the ability of science to inform and entertain. Using wind and water to drive real-time digital projections was in alignment with Obscura’s ongoing transformation of physical setting into digital medium.