It is 1895. A new scientific/biological movement, called Darwinism, is replacing industrial machines with extraordinary creatures called Fabricants. Great Britain, the cradle of Darwinism, has developed the most impressive Fabricant yet: a 1,000 foot flying whale airship, on its maiden voyage from London to Moscow, known as The Leviathan…
Section 2 (Behind the Scenes) / Slide 4 / Gallery
For Sundance 2016, the World Building Media Lab, Unity, Intel RealSense, and 5D Global Studio joined forces in Leviathan to envision the future of immersive storytelling beyond the screen. Silverdraft and Optitrack provided hardware support.
“Leviathan is a perfect vehicle for exploring emergent media. It’s not only a ﬂying whale, but also a fantastic metaphor for an ecosystem that contains all the elements of storytelling in a single worldspace.”
— Alex McDowell, Creative Director
With roots at USC’s World Building Media Lab, Leviathan rapidly evolved into many iterations and experiences through the collaborative work of students, artists, engineers, and Intel.
“In the newest iteration of Leviathan, users are participants in the outcome. No longer are stories fixed, they are changed by the actions of each user.”
— Alex McDowell, Creative Director
In AR, the whale ﬂies through a user’s tablet screen and releases Huxleys, playful jellyﬁsh-like creatures that users can interact with via Intel RealSense. A user can also fly up to the whale and enter its lab which is populated by Unity-driven characters.
The VR story takes place in the Leviathan’s lab where British scientists create, test, and study fabricated beasts. Designed to be emotionally engaging and to exploit VR’s full capability, the story lets users create their own fabricated creatures.
“Leviathan is one of the most innovative storytelling platforms to date. Using Unity, the Leviathan creators developed an immersive, layered experience with incredible depth. We are proud to be part of this groundbreaking project."
— Clive Downie, CMO of Unity Technologies
The Leviathan is a hybrid of a Great Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, and Royal Albatross. These Life Threads account for her incredible size, pronounced blowhole capabilities, and successful flying capabilities: light bone density and large lateral fins. As all the humans and Fabricants aboard the Leviathan depend on her for their safety, her wellbeing and care is of utmost importance.
Section 3 (Menagerie of Fabricants) / Slide 14 / Gallery
A Huxley is a hybrid of Jellyfish, Octopus, and Electric Eel. This combination gives the Huxley a malleable and lightweight body, tentacles, high intelligence, and the ability to store and channel electricity. Since Huxleys play a prominent role in the Fabricant creation process, they are treated as the premiere Fabricant in the Lab.
Section 3 (Menagerie of Fabricants) / Slide 16 / Gallery
Due to their modified vocal cords, Messenger Lizards are capable of emulating human speech. Traveling through the Leviathan ship via a network of tubes, Messenger Lizards can be given a message by dictation and relay it to other parts of the ship, thus allowing crew and officers to communicate quickly.
The Fetcher Monkey is a highly useful helper at the Lab, genetically fashioned from a Capuchin monkey and a spider. The Fetcher Monkey’s extra set of arms allow it to hold beakers, open doors, deliver equipment, and more. Impish and playful, this Fabricant frequently attempts to interact with people at the Lab.
Named after electrical engineer Nikola Tesla from Serbia, the Tesla Spider arose from efforts by the Darwinists to stay at the forefront of both electrophysics and arthropod fabrication. Bioelectric creatures, Tesla Spiders weave conductive webs and generate large electric currents by way of a highly specialized nervous system.
Modified pufferfish that have been given the ability to breathe above water and generate “lighter than air” gas, Puffer Lanterns serve as mobile, easily deployed bioluminescent light sources. Scientists and crew members use them when navigating different areas of the Leviathan.
Aero Fireflies are bioluminescent beetles genetically combined with ants. The Fireflies navigate by using an impressive range of cues such as polarized light patterns, visual panoramas, ground texture, and step counting. Currently, one swarm has been trained to act as a light indication system in assisting the Fabrication process aboard the Leviathan.
Since the Leviathan relies on hydrogen gas for flight, the ability to detect gas leaks is essential for safe airborne operation. For this reason, Sniffer Beagles are an invaluable and stunningly efficient Fabricant. They possess two heads, two noses, and extra hind legs, enabling expert abilities in climbing and gas detection, which ensures the safety of all aboard.
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As a girl, listening to stories of Grandpa’s oceanic adventures, I never imagined that someday the very ship I’d be travelling on would be a creation of biological science: a flying whale.
Everyone on the ship runs around as if slightly mad, making adjustments to this incredible vessel. Scientists sort Fabricants into different habitat chambers, crewmen dash about. Even within the chaos I can’t help but fight back tears of joy as I sit in the middle of our airborne laboratory, gazing out at passing clouds.
I spent the morning on the bridge. WHAT A VIEW! As exciting as the Lab is, nothing beats endless sight in every direction!
I am INSIDE the whale! First, I collected heart and stomach samples, but now I just sit and soak in the amazement of being inside this breathtaking organism. In the gondola, you can forget how truly alive the Leviathan is. I can’t help but wonder not only what she feels, but what are her thoughts?