Pixoul Gaming aims to be a magical, immersive destination for gamers of all levels from across and beyond the Middle East. With 10 different heart pumping VR games and one of the region’s largest Esports arenas, it seeks to foster a world class gaming community, as well as enticing people to experience the excitement of virtual reality for the first time. Every inch of the purpose-built environment is designed to make it feel like a portal to a world of thrilling virtual adventures.
Pixoul’s General Manager Paul Hamilton is a serial inventor of ground breaking entertainment experiences who describes himself as a thrill seeker. “He loves to do things that have never been done before. Things that are super cool. And we love to help him achieve that!” declares Abdul Bakhrani, CEO of Dubai based digital media studio and systems integrator DigiComm, who has worked with Paul on several projects.
Groundbreaking digital instillation
Their latest collaboration is an impressive, continuously rotating 4m glass cube that has been offering an immersive storytelling experience to gamers arriving at Pixoul since the venue’s opening in early November. Encased in screens, this masterpiece of digital and kinetic design houses a walk-in room that is also lined on all sides and above with digital displays. It incorporates 123 55in and 49in LG screens powered by 38 BrightSign XD234 media players. The whole installation weighs around 4t and can carry up to six people at a time.
“As far as we know, nothing like this has ever been done before,” enthuses Abdul. “A structure of this size and weight, rotating on a platform, with all the transport of power involved and everything synchronised across so many screens – it’s quite a feat of engineering.” The concept was devised by Hamilton and his team and realised by DigiComm after the customised media specialist won the project in a competitive tender.
The sizeable construction dominates Pixoul’s atmospheric and colourfully lit entrance hall. Exciting abstract sci-fi content created by DigiComm using BrightAuthor is displayed on its exterior, setting the tone for the experience to follow. Because the venue is a VR attraction, it was important to create an impactful display that was representative of the games, which are themselves largely invisible.
On entering the cube’s interior room, players watch a looped three-minute audio visual production created by Pixoul’s game designers Robocom VR. A virtual robot guide relays the story so far, explaining what to expect from a visit to the unique world of the Pixoul Metaverse and how to engage in the activities on offer. When they exit, visitors face a different part of the space than when they entered.
According to Abdul, optimising the speed of the rotation was critical. “If it moves too fast, people will feel sick,” he explained. The rotating platform and the skeleton of the cube were manufactured in Dubai, while a seven strong team at DigiComm handled the system integration and content creation in-house.
Inside the cube, the location of the audio content is changed at different points on the timeline by the BrightSign players, so that it always comes from the robot figure, wherever it appears on screen. “It makes people turn to look in the right direction.” explains Abdul. “The sound system is excellent, with subwoofers creating a lot of bass on the robot’s voice, but the clever part is using the BrightSign functionality to move it around from player to player.”
BrightSign players were selected not only for their special audio features but for several other compelling reasons. Their exceptional robustness and ability to fit in an extremely compact space between two screens without any ventilation were important factors, as was the ease with which they can be synchronised with each other, a function which Abdul affirms works ‘amazingly well’.
Another key advantage was that they enable all the media content to be stored within the cube itself. Abdul says, “The fact there was no need for a separate server room was very important. It would have been really difficult to transport media off the rotating platform via slip rings, and it would have been much more expensive. Using BrightSign saved the client around 300,000 Dirhams.”
The cost effectiveness of their proposed solution and the fact that they could provide an end-to-end service, including design, hardware and content, clinched the project for DigiComm, who then delivered it in just 45 days.
Despite the tight timeframe and the challenges associated with fitting a 6m rotating platform in a floor recess with an error tolerance of only 2mm, the results exceeded expectations. “We’re so happy with it,” remarked Hamilton. “They delivered exactly what we wanted with no changes at all. There were some seriously talented and forward-thinking people involved in pulling this together.”
Hamilton is also General Manager of Abu Dhabi’s National Aquarium which is next door to Pixoul on the Al Qana Marina, a popular waterfront destination that also boasts a large cinema complex and an indoor sports arena. In 2016, he worked with BrightSign and DigiComm to create a 91 screen exhibit at the aquarium featuring an interactive digital shark cage.
Ann Holland, Vice President, Marketing at BrightSign, “Abdul and his team have really smashed the bar with this stellar project, which is as impressive technically as it is visually. Their imagination is truly amazing, and each project they deliver harnesses the capabilities of our players to their most powerful potential. We are excited to see how DigiComm has stretched BrightSign players to their limits in this exceptional installation.”