The Airshop Innovation Lab
Estimated Read Time: 2 minutes
United Airlines’ Airshop Innovation Lab showcases advanced visualization of airport environments, real-time collaboration, immersive presentations, and lifesize 1:1 3D training modules.
United’s vision was to create an experience that embodied and enabled innovation and collaboration across the company, and they partnered with NEXT/NOW to take this vision into reality. While already innovation-focused, United saw the benefits of coalescing around an incredible team and dedicated space to facilitate the energy of their mindset.
The space is truly a working lab, with areas for testing new digital and physical concepts, advanced 3D printing, and other future-forward initiatives. A centerpiece of the space is an epic immersive theater, consisting of projection-mapped content on three walls, with accompanying 3D audio. This space will be utilized for advanced visualization of existing and future airport environments, real-time collaboration, immersive presentations, and lifesize 1:1 3D training modules.
From a show-control and CMS standpoint, NEXT/NOW utilizes a software platform that they have been developing for the past 5 years. Called Activate360, it allows the NEXT/NOW team to create very specialized media playback and interactive systems for projects that are truly unique – think unlimited large-scale LED video walls, motion and gesture-control, ultra-high pixel count video content, realtime data visualizations, multi-projector displays, and more. The team can easily customize this system to allow intuitive and simple control of exceedingly complex AV systems.
The immersive theater consists of 3 high-lumen NEC projectors that are mapped to a dedicated 500-square-foot space. The NEXT/NOW team aligned and pixel-mapped these projectors for a seamless 270-degree immersive panorama. From a motion design perspective, one of the highlights of a visit to the space is a high-end ‘anthem’ video introducing the United Airshop concept. NEXT/NOW’s internal team of animators, motion-graphic specialists, and audio designers crafted a powerful, visually stunning motion video that kicks off the experience.
The biggest challenge faced was the sheer ambition of the immersion room. Integrating metaverse visuals, volumetric scans of existing airports, advanced video playback, data visualization, and collaboration tools into a user-friendly system was key. Leaning on their UI/UX team to design not only interface elements, but also the room’s user experience allowed NEXT/NOW to design and test well before programming began. The end result is a powerful tool that is easy and enjoyable to use.
The Airshop Innovation Lab has been up and running since 2021, while the physical space officially opened for employees in March 2023.
NEXT/NOW (Chicago) is an experiential technology agency known for AR/VR, touch, gesture, motion tracking and projection experiences.
Photo Credits: Gareth Fewel and Jenny Myslinski