The Eden Universe Testbed commenced in November 2020 as part of the 5G Create Testbed and Trials programme and has run for the past seventeen months culminating in March 2022.
A consortium of four partners including Eden Project, aql, Marshmallow Laser Feast and Meta Camera came together to answer the question as to whether 5G technologies could enhance Eden’s visitor journey onsite as well as online, and whether a digital offering could increase our audience reach. This was all to be delivered in line with Eden’s mission of creating a movement that builds relationships between people and the natural world.
To achieve this the consortium deployed a series of use case trials utilising a 360° 5G non-standalone (NSA) shared spectrum network that used 5G techniques aiding the delivery of multiple unique experiences across a variety of digital technologies including a virtual tour, high resolution 360° cameras, augmented and virtual reality.
Supply chain issues and subsequent delays affected the delivery of the required data speeds to achieve the use case experiences defined at the start of the project. However, the consortium was able to deliver a range of high quality and unique end products that include the foundations of a network and infrastructure that will lend itself to new and exciting opportunities across multiple sectors for the future.
The project was able to cater for use case trial one, VISITOR EXPERIENCE, by deploying groundbreaking onsite experiences and an online virtual tour. An augmented reality VIP experience was developed between the creative minds of Eden Project’s interpretation and storytelling team alongside Marshmallow Laser Feast, where visitors have been able to use devices to immerse themselves into the invisible worlds of our Rainforest Biome.
This was deployed in the form of “The Living Lens” AR experience, where visitors were able to experience the Rainforest environment as different animals such as mosquitos, bees and bats. The second utilisation of AR named “The Weather Maker”, allowed guests to use the devices as a virtual X-ray viewing the interconnected systems that lay underground and contribute to the world’s climate as we know it.
These experiences were then adapted for online viewing and contributed to the Eden Universe virtual tour which hosted an aerial 360° tour of the whole Eden Project site as well as live streams from multiple 360° cameras, guided tours and a data dashboard that utilises data from newly installed sensors to tell the story of Eden Projects plans to be climate positive by 2030.
The projects second use case trial catered for the EDUCATIONAL visitor – utilising the content and journey on the Eden Universe virtual tour and multiple curated educational packages for KS1 – 4 the team live streamed to over 1000 students at multiple schools from the rainforest biome, creating an engaging and thought-provoking lesson for those that participated – something that the Eden Project education team intend to roll out and develop over the coming months.
Our third use case saw the project deliver experiences in care homes across Cornwall and Liverpool as part of our research into HEALTH & WELLBEING and the technologies effects on this space.
Bespoke experiences that utilized different elements of the virtual tour such as the live at Eden camera streams and the curated Virtual Nature tours were made available to residents of separate care homes on either iPad or through our “Room with a view” which included a large-scale projector screen and installation of plant life to enhance the offering.
In addition, the project also delivered bespoke VR experiences through Oculus Quest 2 headsets, this medium provided valuable feedback for future iterations with the focus of this aspect being on residents with dementia.
This use case trial also produced a collaboration between Eden Universe and Liverpool 5G which proved fruitful for all involved and provided the Universe with some extremely positive feedback and content for our Benefits Realisation documentation.
The Eden team embarked to Liverpool where we installed the Health & Wellbeing experiences at a Liverpool based 5G enhanced care home – the results conclusive told us that the content created very much indeed enhanced visitor experience, quality of life and increased the sample groups connection to nature and other people by providing a virtual trip to Eden for people who may never experience it in real life.
The final use case provided content for our ART & CULTURE deployment. As part of the project the consortium delivered Eden’s first ever live streamed wellness event, “Rainforest Reconnect”, directly from the Rainforest Biome at the Cornwall site through an event platform.
This performance included a wealth of content including a 5 track album of songs that were created utilising data from the plants within the biome itself and played under a 6 piece choir, as well as dancers, yoga, breathing exercises and additional wellbeing activities.
Lastly, as part of the project, the team at Eden and aql have installed and deployed a series of IoT sensors that will be utilized across all the entities teams to better understand it’s visitors and location. This data has been located to a data lake that will enhance the operations, overheads, sustainability and visitor experience not only for the Cornwall site but all new Eden’s.
Despite the issues deploying the initially proposed 5G network, the testbed has been deemed a great success and an incredible amount of work has been achieved within the short lifespan of the venture by all involved.
The Eden Project has legacy ambitions for all the content and technologies installed within it’s future offerings, and has now been encouraged to think differently as to how it tells it’s stories and spreads it’s mission.
A key takeaway has been that digital technologies, supported by the speeds availed by 5G networks, are imperative to these stories and messaging that Eden Project Cornwall and it’s wider sites are aiming to convey.
However, these technologies are more impactful when telling the story of our connection to nature and the planetary emergency when they are utilised alongside human delivery and interactions.