Retail P Kansas

A working Death Star in the lobby? That’s what experiential real estate is all about

  

Interactivity matters to the designers at Overland Park, Kansas-based Dimensional Innovations. Real estate that encourages ill children to heal by playing games? The design-build firm embraces that.

How about a sports shop that allows customers to insert themselves in the historic victory celebration held by the 2016 Chicago Cubs after their historic World Series win?

That’s good, too. Then there’s the movie theater in Nebraska that features its own fully functioning Death Star, the killing machine made famous in the Star Wars movies.

These are all examples of the interactive technology that powering a growing slice of the projects that Dimensional Innovations tackles across the country.

“We focus on creating experiences with our projects,” said Tom Collins, chief operating officer of Dimensional Innovations. “The rest of the world is now talking about the importance of giving customers experiences, whether it’s creating an experience for a patient in a hospital, a customer in a retail shop or a fan at a stadium. That conversation about experiences is happening daily.”

Collins traces the birth of the company’s focus on experiential real estate – real estate designed to entertain customers, not just convince them to buy something or give them a place to work – to the earliest days of its now long-time partnership with AMC Theatres.

Back then, Dimensional Innovations convinced AMC officials to remove a portion of the seats in some of their theaters and replace them with reciliners. They also convinced the theater chain to add amenities like higher-quality food and adult-centered bar areas.

“Initially, it was hard to sell people on the idea of taking out seats to increase revenue,” Collins said. “But movie theaters did realize a long time ago something that other retailers are just now realizing today: To get people in their theaters, with the competition of better-quality TVs, they had to create an experience. Movie theaters realized that in the dawn of the DVD age. Retailers are now seeing this with the dawn of Web-based shopping.”

Some of the most successful retailers today are relying on experiences to help bring shoppers to their stores. Think of the Apple Store, which presents its latest products more as pieces of art than commodities to purchase. Or think of all the grocery stores that offer on-site cooking classes or demonstrations.

Consumers today want more from their retailers.

And they’re not alone. Patients want more from their hospitals and office workers want more than cubicles. Dimensional Innovations is thriving by bringing this more to them.

The work that Dimensional Innovations recently completed at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is a good example of interactivity and experiential real estate.

Dimensional Innovations created an immersive children’s theater in the Gerdin Family Lobby of the new hospital. Using Microsoft Kinect technology, the company’s animation and motion graphics team designed two interactive games specifically for the theater.

Children use the games for fun, of course. But they also have medical benefits, encouraging young patients to push muscles that they previously would not move because of pain. The games also provide a distraction that can help relieve the pain that the young patients here too often feel.

The theater – named Nick’s Theater – is 32 feet long with a curved design, and is responsive to the movements of up to four users at a time.

In the theater’s Eagles’ Flight game, children use their arms to control a bird flying across the United States – starting in Iowa, of course – and past landmarks such as Mount Rushmore. The second game, Story in the Stars, brings three original stories to life as constellations in the sky. Users can interact with on-screen hot-spots to uncover animated elements that fill each scene.

“The theater allows family members and children – who might have long-term hospital stays – a chance to escape to another world, to fly away temporarily,” said Curtis Walker, technology director with Dimensional Innovations. “And since the theater responds to the children’s subtle movements, it gives them a sense of control, something they often miss during their hospital stay.”

The University of Iowa Hospital is acting a bit like a retailer hoping to please its customers. Only in this case, the hospital’s customers are its young patients.

“The hospital had a vision to transform the patient experience,” Collins said. “The theater helps add one more piece to that mission for the kids staying there. We don’t like to play favorites with our projects, but this one ranks near the top because of the immediate impact we have seen on patients’ faces, on patients’ parents. When you watch the video of people using the cinema, it’s impossible not to have an emotional reaction. This is the reason we do what we do.”

The work at the hospital is far from the only bit of experiential real estate that Dimensional Innovations has recently delivered.

The Chicago Cubs opened a retail store outside the left-field wall at Wrigley Field. Dimensional Innovations designed a monitor-filled curved wall for that store, a wall that is displaying constantly evolving content. The company also designed a green screen setting at the store. Customers can use this area to insert themselves in images of the Wrigley Field locker room, on the park’s baseball diamond itself or as a participant in the team’s recent World Series victory celebration.

Dimensional Innovations also helped the owners of the Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Omaha, Nebraska, create a lobby that looked like it came out of the original Star Wars trilogy of films. Tall LED-lit lightsabers – 16 feet tall – mark the outside of the theater. Inside the lobby is a concession stand that looks more like a space station and a recreation of the throne used by the villainous Emperor Palpatine.

It’s what you can do while sitting on that throne that is so interesting. Hanging from the lobby’s roof is a miniature Death Star space station. Customers sitting in the throne area can use working controls to fire the operational, yet completely safe, Death Star.

For the 2016 opening of the NFL Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016, Dimensional Innovations created the Vikings Voyage interactive experience. Through the use of virtual reality, the voyage gives fans the opportunity to catch passes while wearing a virtual reality Vikings helmet, run a three-cone practice drill against the pace of a current Vikings’ player and hit a tackling sled that measures impact force.