The Green Planet

The Green Planet as you’ve never seen it before

By Jason Riley

Take a virtual journey into the ground-breaking series with Sir David Attenborough as your guide.

Want to gain a deeper understanding of the incredible lives of plants through the magic of augmented reality? You’re in luck: The Green Planet AR Experience is coming to London. Powered by EE 5G technology – and with a hologram of Sir David showing you around – you’ll traverse six digitally-enhanced worlds through a plant’s-eye view.

Circular door connecting desert and water world rooms
You’ll traverse six digitally-enhanced worlds through a plant’s-eye view.
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From the series

The Green Planet

More on Nature

While making The Green Planet , the series producers employed pioneering new methods and advanced technological innovations to document the plant kingdom. Filming in timelapse, real time, and miniature, from the plants’ perspectives, the producers learned they’re more like animals than we’d previously imagined.

But the team wanted to go one step further. They’d told stories of the plant kingdom in some impressive, never-before-seen ways – but how could they turn this awe-inspiring footage into something immersive and interactive?

That’s how they came to create The Green Planet AR Experience. Taking place in London over four weeks, the event pairs augmented reality (AR), with the power of EE 5G. Visitors will journey into the places explored in the series, using smart devices to ‘read the room’ in each of its six zones. These handheld ‘windows’ will make it appear as if these environments are there before your eyes and fingertips.

phone screen depicting AR underwater scene
Handheld ‘windows’ will make it appear as if these environments are there before your eyes.

5G streaming allows for higher-quality visuals than standard connections – and several people can interact with them at once. 5G can also seamlessly send large volumes of content, which allows Sir David Attenborough to guide you on your tour. He appears in the form of a hologram to help intrepid digital adventurers make the most of the AR expedition. Through his typically charming commentary, he’ll help you understand our ecosystems and the importance of biodiversity and rewilding. He’ll prompt you on where to point your device and offer insights along the way.

The appearance of Sir David was achieved using a camera technique called ‘volumetric capture’. This means he was filmed from multiple angles by several cameras at the same time and that footage was then used to create a life-like 3D animated model for the experience.

freshwater worlds room with blue and purple lighting
You’ll learn the secrets of the giant water lily, which captures scarab beetles for pollination purposes.

With Sir David as your trusty narrator and virtual guide, there are six worlds for you to explore. You’ll begin by entering a living Amazonian jungle – and from there, venture into the rainforest biome. Here you’ll witness a giant balsa tree growing from seed to tree, all in the blink of an eye. Crossing the freshwater biome, you’ll learn the secrets of the giant water lily, which captures scarab beetles for pollination purposes. Then, the saltwater biome takes you into a meadow of Neptune seagrass, the wonder plant that captures carbon dioxide, and also plays a valuable role in cleaning our oceans.

Next are the desert, seasonal, and human biomes, where you’ll meet the saguaro cactus that can grow up to 12 metres (40 feet) tall, and witness a digital wildfire engulfing the South African Cape.

desert worlds room with cacti and orange lighting
You’ll meet the saguaro cactus that can grow up to 12 metres (40 feet) tall.

And, like the series itself, it’s an experience underpinned by environmental concerns. Its creators wanted it to be built sustainably and responsibly, so the sets are made from eco-friendly, recycled and recyclable materials. This means no single-use plastics, no merchandising, and tickets are only issued electronically. All materials will be reused or recycled afterwards, to reduce waste.

They’ve also gone to great lengths to make the cyber-experience as realistic as possible. Producers worked with scientific and horticultural experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to bring an extraordinary level of detail to the visuals. They worked together to ensure that every leaf, tree, and flower is exactly as it appears in nature.

The same audio team who worked on the series also created an environmental soundscape that acts as surround sound. So those rustling leaves and animal calls – even that expanding water lily – will sound like they’re just within reach.

And the best part? The experience is completely free to enter. All you have to do is visit the website to book your tickets. Our virtual Sir David is looking forward to meeting you there.

The Green Planet AR Experience, powered by EE 5G, takes place from 11 February to 9 March 2022 at 55 Regent Street, London.

The Green Planet 5G AR Consortium is led by immersive content studio Factory 42 and includes BBC Studios, 5G mobile network operator EE, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Talesmith and Dimension Studios.

Article originally published February 2022.


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