How can you dive into the oceans, as close as possible to marine animals in Time Square, without taking them out of their natural habitat? Answer: by an immersive experience of course! National Geographic succeeds in making you travel other than with its beautiful photos, and it works!

The Experience

Once in the building, we go down: the light becomes darker, with a bluish tint…. At the bottom is the National Geographic logo. A great way to get into the experience.

Then we wait a little while in the lobby. Our session is at 2:30 pm. Departures are timed. At 2:30 pm we enter a room, with about ten other participants, the doors close again. A mini film introduces the purpose of the experiment, and here we go!

The first part of the experience is a guided tour through multiple installations. These highlight different parts of the oceans. It’s a real trip to the heart of the Pacific Ocean. All this is accompanied by a guide who provides us with some additional explanations and launches the animations.

The installations are varied, often interactive, sometimes sensory. They express, in their own way, the beauty of the oceans. You can stroll through a labyrinth of Kelp (an algae forest off the coast of California), play with sea lions or watch a battle between two Humboldt squids masterfully orchestrated on two opposite screens. The finale of this first part is sublime: we brush against a humpback whale in a 3D experience.

The second part of the experience is free, closer to a museum. You can discover testimonies on the importance of preserving the oceans, raising awareness on the effects of plastic, all in an always educational spirit ! For example, you are facing a polluted ocean. To clean it, you must answer questions about possible actions to clean it up, as an individual in your daily life, or if you were an association or a town hall. Not bad for having concrete elements of solutions. At the end, you discover the state of your ocean. Informative and effective.

What we liked

A dreamlike experience:

It’s beautiful and it’s addictive! We are quite amazed by the dreamlike nature of the installations. The stories are neither really suggested nor almost never expressed directly. So we really have the impression of a journey that we can interpret in our own way. That’s nice considering the subject! Special mention to the lyricism of the sound experience composed by David Khane (who worked with the Beatles anyway!): we find ourselves at the bottom of an ocean at night (and in a dark room) listening to the echoes of whales and dolphins, it’s magnificent.

Mastery of scenographic and technological devices:

In New York, this is becoming the norm. Immersion does not really rhyme with virtual reality. On the contrary, we rely on the creation of physical spaces to allow collective and life-size experiences to take place. Technologies serve the purpose well, and you never get bored. The proposed interactions are simple but all fun, big and small seemed delighted.

Successful impact:

What if we could find this experience in Paris, Hong Kong or Mexico City?! The content is created, the business model seems to be working and the success is there (around 10,000 visitors since its launch). It is therefore highly likely that new places will be opened around the world to offer the experience. In addition, new experiences should complete the portfolio! That’s great.

What we didn’t like so much

The time :

It’s beautiful… ugh but we have to go already! Sometimes we would have liked to stay a few more minutes in the facilities. Our guide gives us the tempo and to ensure sufficient rotation in space, our time is quite limited in each installation.

Plastic in the shop:

You live an experience as close as possible to nature, with a real awareness of plastic and finally you end up in a shop with… plastic! But it is also a MEA Culpa from National Geographic since the stated objective is to reach zero plastic in this store by 2020.

What we get out of it

Entertainment for a cause is very effective! It is easier to hear messages when you are amazed and have a good time.

If you fall in love with the oceans, you will do everything to preserve them

Adonis Madera – Senior Project Manager @Encouter : Ocean Odyssey

It is also a good way for National Geographic to renew its brand and reach a younger audience, perhaps less inclined to buy its magazines, and focused on sharing! You can film and take pictures during the experiment, clever Bill !

Finally, large immersive installations must ensure a high filling rate to be profitable! As a result, each lap is millimetre-sized and often short. That’s the flaw. And at the same time, we want this experience to be known to as many people as possible! The paradox of success.

More information about Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

Adresse : 226 W 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue, Times Square New York, NY 10036

Rate: $39.50 for an adult, $32.50 for a child (3 – 12 years old) and 36.50 for seniors and veterans, family package $100 for 2 adults and 2 children.