Merrell TrailScape - The world's first virtual hike.
A 4D, motion-tracked, multi-sensory experience that created a trek like no other.
Create an experience for the launch of the new Merrell Capra, the most technically advanced hiking shoe yet. Framestore worked with agency Hill Holliday to design a virtual reality world in which the capabilities of the kit were showcased in extreme scenarios – the kind of landscapes that would really speak to Merrell’s thrill-seeking, outdoor-loving audience. As always, Framestore VR Studio also looked to push the available technology to its very limits to bring about something truly groundbreaking - in this case, something that had never been done before.
The Merrell Capra shoe was named after the Capra mountain goat – a free-spirited creature known for its hardy ability to take on treacherous landscapes, with ease. Merrell’s customers too, are adventurous types, driven by a desire to see, feel and tackle new ground. A VR experience tailored to these thrill-seekers would need to eclipse the high-tempo activities taken on by these people in their daily lives, and showcase Merrell’s brand commitment to awe-inspiring nature.
TrailScape marked the first ever commercial use of an in-motion Oculus Rift experience. This was the only time users had been able to walk the paths shown to them in the Oculus headset, getting an incredible feel for the ‘landscape’ around them.
Motion capture technology allowed our adventurers to explore the mountainside, with tactile elements such as rope walkways and shaking wooden planks underfoot driving the immersive nature of the piece to the absolute max. They were faced with mini-crises en route – the rockfall of a landslide, a precarious summit – which saw them dabble in scenarios beyond the confines of their typical hikes.
Our state-of-the-art motion capture system gave unparalleled space for explorers to discover our virtual terrain. We developed proprietary plugins for our game engine platform, allowing us to stream realtime tracking data into engine, alongside a modular, flexible tracking device that would be easily mountable to the headset/headgear.
Presence was the key to making this experience a success, hence great care was taken to ensure the virtual set piece elements - most significantly the uprights of the rope bridge - were occupying the same world space as their physical counterparts. We developed a suite of calibration tools that would enable us to rapidly re-seat the virtual environment based on physical markers on set. This was critical to ensure the person was always walking completely straight down the bridge - any error in this calibration process would have sent people veering off the sides.
TrailScape prompted incredible reactions from the crowds, who found themselves shouting and screaming as the action unfurled around them. Users were transported directly to the Italian Dolomites, gaining a brilliant sense of the outdoors and the perils of their adventure in a new and entirely unexpected way.
With over five minutes of dwell time and a queue stretching around the exhibition stand, the TrailScape experience truly captured the imaginations of Sundance Festival-goers and drove record engagement. The opportunity to showcase Merrell’s brand story and proposition in such an innovative and engaging way was a triumph for the VR Studio, who have already built on the success of this incredible world-first experience.