When you see the moon appearing larger than life on the horizon, psychologists explain this is just an illusion and the actual moon remains the exact same size on our retinas regardless of its location in the sky. Apparently, one full year is also the exact same length no matter where it falls within our lifetimes. Yet this past year, 2022, sure seems like it flew by far more quickly this time around.
Regardless of whether it was fast or slow for you, I am grateful to all of Roto’s partners, clients, and especially our team, for a truly amazing and diverse year of inventive collaboration. We’ve been fortunate this year to participate in many projects with goals largely familiar to Roto’s core competencies that also stretched our thinking and technical expertise through innovative new approaches. There is more interactivity in collecting museums, more immersive media in aquariums, and more storytelling in science centers than ever.
We are also thankful to those who have trusted Roto’s design-build methodology for project types that are wholly new for us (e.g. utility-scale water recycling is way cooler than we knew!). These have made for a truly energizing year—and another new company record for overall project volume.
Looking ahead to 2023, the previous several years of global experimentation with immersive media will likely reach its point of maturation, and therefore, also, of renewal. When we discuss this trend at Roto and apply our thinking to the future of placemaking and cultural exhibitions, we use the term “supersensory.” This captures not only the immense visual canvases our projects can paint on, but the engagement of all other human “senses” within the new environments we create. Sound and vibration, absolutely, and also the sense of adventure, belonging, and intrinsic purpose that forge genuine human connections in exhibitions and museums. Supersensory means immersion beyond video projections. And it is time we elevated our expectations for what these encounters can mean for audiences.
I remember the late 1980’s when audiences would flock to animatronic dinosaur shows, as they did 20 years prior for elaborate dioramas (think 1964 World’s Fair) and 20 years after for giant screen films. IMAX theaters, rubber dinosaurs, and static dioramas barely move the needle today, so immersive projections alone will also soon become unremarkable. But like all well-designed experiences it’s not the medium that offers audiences authentic connections to the world, it’s content and participation. The specific stories, ideas and messages skillfully woven into the experience, and the degree to which the participants personally “matter” to the exhibition, that give it meaning. Museums and firms focused on the techniques of storytelling and participation are miles ahead of the competition in this respect – whether they have yet to install an immersive environment or not.
As we prepare to launch into a jam-packed 2023, I hope we all can take time to recharge and reconsider the scale of our perceived challenges in relation to the incredible scale of our actual opportunities. The future of creative design technology for the museum and exhibition field is extremely bright. The value of location-based supersensory experiences has never been more in public demand. So, when, like the moon, our problems near at hand seem bigger than they normally are, it helps to ask whether this too is simply a trick of perspective.
Joseph Wisne, CEO