Movie magic permeated every corner of Canon U.S.A.’s exhibit at CES 2023, Jan. 5-8. The digital imaging solutions brand partnered with filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan on four interactive experiences that transported attendees into the story of his upcoming thriller, “Knock at the Cabin.” Canon connected participants to characters from the film (in theaters Feb. 3) and placed them in the middle of some of its most suspenseful moments using four of its technologies: MREAL, AMLOS, Kokomo and Free Viewpoint. The experiences tied back to the company’s theme of “Limitless is More.”
Canon’s booth brought the forest setting of “Knock at the Cabin” to the Las Vegas Convention Center with trees that reached the ceiling, bushes, rock features, wooden props and a pine straw-covered ground. The exhibit’s centerpiece was the titular cabin, made to look like a cozy vacation home with a porch. Contrasting the woodsy environment were cameras, VR headsets, smartphones, computers and screens.
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A Mixed-Reality Cabin Experience
When attendees stepped inside the cabin, they found rustic décor and furniture, but once they put on Canon’s MREAL head-mounted display, they were thrown into a tense atmosphere. Attendees took part in a break-in scene from the trailer of “Knock at the Cabin,” in which they barricaded the house with virtual furniture and objects to keep out intruders on a mysterious quest.
Because MREAL produces a mixed-reality experience that integrates virtual and real-world environments, participants could see both the in-person cabin surroundings combined with simulated elements throughout the three-minute experience. “Andrew” was a full volumetric character within the space who was panicking and shouting as the intensity grew, aided by the room’s 3D sound speakers projecting noises from all angles of footsteps and glass breaking.
“This experience has been a collaboration for a while with Universal and M. Night’s team, where we took this cabin—this is the real scale of the cabin—and recreated it here within this CES space,” says Jason Williams, product advisor for MREAL at Canon. “We built this for this week, and we also had to build it somewhere else. Back in New York, we had to get the absolute dimensions. We had to model this in computer graphics to the centimeter of tolerance to make sure that everything was aligned. And then we sent an actor to Japan to use some of our Free Viewpoint volumetric type of capture to have a volumetric representation of the actor so he feels lifelike. It feels like he’s right there with you.”
A Virtual Twist on an Escape Room
Canon developed AMLOS (Activate My Line of Sight), introduced at CES 2022, to help amplify engagement and collaboration in hybrid meeting environments. When combined with a video conferencing platform, AMLOS allows in-person participants to use hand-gesture controls to guide and control the focus of a PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) camera, while remote users customize their view to see objects and areas of the in-person space or to track a presenter and what they’re pointing at. To showcase these capabilities, Canon created a virtual “Knock at the Cabin” escape room type of experience for CES attendees.
Participants sat at one of four desks, each equipped with a computer and microphone headset, and then together virtually joined a meeting with an actor who was standing inside the disheveled cabin in the aftermath of the movie’s events. The actor, located in Philadelphia on the actual set of “Knock at the Cabin,” interacted with the participants in Las Vegas in real time, asking them to search for clues that would reveal what happened in the cabin. Attendees could chime in to ask the actor to take a closer look at notes on the wall, a basket on the table, a bag on the floor or a knocked-over chair. AMLOS gave them access to rearrange their screen view to zoom in on certain areas, pan out to get a full view of the room or focus on the actor. After a few minutes of exploring, the actor left the room, ending the session, which would start anew about five minutes later for the next group.
“We brainstormed on how to show [AMLOS] in a more gamified way,” says Tom Cusanelli, senior specialist, product marketing at Canon. “Originally, it was a corporate type of solution, but then we started to think of all the different applications it could expand to. This experience is fun to show just how much it can do.”
A One-on-one 3D Video Call
CES attendees got an early-access preview of Kokomo, Canon’s first VR platform application for face-to-face communication in virtual spaces. Launching next month, Kokomo brings lifelike 3D video calling into VR through a headset and smartphone, allowing users to see and hear one another in real time with their live appearance and expressions in a photo-real environment.
Attendees could step into a pod and don a VR headset to have a one-on-one Kokomo conversation with a character from “Knock at the Cabin.” Like the AMLOS experience, the characters were actors based in Philadelphia connected to CES participants in real time through Kokomo.
“Once you put your headset on, you will be in the forest, just in front of the cabin, and you’ll see the character in front of you and have the conversation,” says Ryuhei Konno, co-founder of Kokomo. “You’re able to meet one of four characters, so you can try one [pod] and come back to try all the characters for a different experience.”
New Perspectives on Movie Scenes
Canon’s Free Viewpoint Video System makes it possible to view a scene from any angle, with NBA arenas having incorporated the technology to record several game perspectives for live broadcasts and playback. At CES, attendees could view a “Knock at the Cabin” action scene from multiple perspectives as captured by the Free Viewpoint Video System, supervised by Shyamalan and shot at Canon’s Volumetric Video Studio in Kawasaki, Japan.
The experience offered three perspectives from which to view the 30-second scene of a character trying to escape attack from an antagonist outside the cabin: first-person view from the character’s perspective, bird’s-eye view from a crow flying around and view from the ground looking up at the action. Each perspective showed new details that were unseen from other angles.
“For Canon, this is a huge leap. Canon’s been raising the bar year after year for how they want to bring immersion to people,” Williams says. “We’re showing how far it can go. It doesn’t have to be just demonstrating prototyping, machining, simulations and training, but we can also have fun with it with entertainment. M. Night saw the vision. He’s a visionary who wants to raise the bar of creativity, and that’s exactly what he did.” Agency: FCBX.