The Irish Racehorse Experience
STUDIO / DESIGNER
EXPERIENCE DESIGN: Lead game designer: Rob Molenaar. Secondary designers: Peter Whittaker, Heather Dowling-Wade EXPERIENCE PRODUCTION: Device UI implementation, programming, backend: MCW. Mechanical horse ride build and programming: HWVA
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
“The Irish Racehorse Experience, at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, is a cutting-edge, self-guided, immersive visitor attraction for visitors seeking the inside track on Irish Thoroughbred racing.
Our challenge was to convey the excitement and thrill of horse-racing to both expert and non-expert audiences. How could we immerse visitors in the world of horse racing? We believed we could take the traditional handheld audioguide and turn it into something much more exciting: a “virtual horsebox” that visitors would use to step into the shoes of an owner, trainer and jockey. But could this be done while still accommodating the core requirements of a multilingual audioguide, and without distracting from the physical experience? Could we create a mixed-reality experience that didn’t require interaction, but rewarded it? The ultimate aim was to reward the visitor with an exciting, mechanical ride where their horse performed based on how well it was trained.”
How the brief was fulfilled
“Our ambition was to create a horse racing game that reflected the reality (but simplified) of how one actually buys, trains and prepares a horse for race day.
This involved extensive research and game design to deliver an experience that would appeal to the competitive spirit of many of our visitors, but that wouldn’t overwhelm with complexity; and which would integrate with the required multilingual audioguide functionality.
We built the entire exhibition in 3d at design stage, so we could visualise for ourselves and the client the visitor flow and interaction points. We then researched and specified appropriate device hardware. Ultimately we settled on indoor UWB positioning technology (<30cm accuracy) so the device would know where it was with high accuracy, and react accordingly. We wanted visitors to only have to touch the device for game elements; the audioguide aspect would deliver translated voiceover automagically as the visitor moves from exhibit to exhibit.
This design then had to be publicly tendered out, along with the physical exhibition production. Our role included supervision of implementation through to final handover, which was essential for this integrated approach.
What resulted was the Foal To Finish (FTF) game. An 8” tablet and headphones on a lanyard are handed out to visitors, at which time their language of choice is selected. This allows visitors to hear films in their native language; but also interact with the FTF game as they move from zone to zone. Visitors purchase a virtual yearling, give it a unique name, choose a trainer and different training routines, and lastly design their silks. In every zone they learn some aspect of the industry and get to use that knowledge in the game. This comes to a climax in the Big Race: a group experience where visitors ride their horses down Naas Racecourse. Each horse moves according to the choices the visitor made during their journey. After the race, visitors can see a replay and compare rankings, with suggestions on how they can improve their chances next time. The end result is a unique mixed-reality experience combining learning and fun.”
provides an immersive experience bridging a traditional exhibition and a digital experience"