Tony Currie, Digital Creative Lead, explains why emotion was a vital component of 'Catwalk', the project where he helped create the world’s first AI feline jaguar for Jaguar Land Rover.
At Imagination we’re always thinking of inspiring ways to bring to life the latest technology innovations, which is how the world’s first machine learning AI feline jaguar - Catwalk - came about. It tells the story of Adaptive Dynamics technology in Jaguar vehicles by responding and reacting in real-time to visitors at the Paris Auto Show.
Walking the walk
Created alongside The Mill & GCRS, Catwalk is a brand new experience that epitomises the ethos of Simple Human Interaction. Before we get down to the details of what we actually created with Catwalk, it’s important to walk (no pun intended) through the process we followed to ensure what we created would be something that people wanted. Back in our concept phase of the Jaguar Labs we were shooting ideas around to communicate the amazing Adaptive Dynamics technology (literally what makes a Jag feel like a Jag) that goes into controlling the drive of all Jaguar cars. A week previous to coming up with the Catwalk concept one of our team had explored a film piece, in the style of Westworld’s opening sequence, exploring the anatomy of a cat, and using the joints as metaphors of suspension dampers to explain the adaptive dynamics technology story.
This gave us the opportunity to explore this technology through an asset which Jaguar has not used as much as it arguably should. We were already thinking this, if done right, could exist as a bigger story than Adaptive Dynamics alone. Fortunately, Jaguar was already thinking the same and recently released a series of TV advertisements featuring Eva Green and the CGI feline jaguar.
Telling the story
The feline Jaguar is an amazing cat, agile of course, but powerful and fierce - epitomising the drive of a Jag. Now we’ve all heard the argument for storydoing over storytelling and what we aimed to do was create a narrative that the player is part of, and feels an emotional connection to. Our idea was the personification of the car as the cat in an interactive, responsive experience.
Our key principles above, attract, engage and amplify were:
An activity requiring a degree of skill, making a player a participant.
A merging of action and awareness
Clear goals, a feeling of winning
Direct, immediate feedback
Concentration on the task at hand
A sense of control
A loss of self-consciousness, believing in the cat’s world
An altered sense of time, immersed in the moment
After storyboards and creative builds, we had a clear idea on our two main stories. Firstly we wanted to talk about the agility of the feline jaguar, comparing that to the handling and feeling of driving a Jaguar car. Secondly we wanted to also talk about reactions and the speed at which both Jaguars respond to the world/road around them. But we also wanted a hero emotional moment - something that surprises and delights players. One of the key things was to ensure that players felt that the cat was aware of them and reacted to them. You have to feel an emotional connection with the cat and you have to want to play.
Bringing Catwalk to life
Our UX team got to work in exploring gestures and what the interaction could and should be, keeping in mind the final installation would need to cross borders and speak to different cultures. We’re never too old to enjoy playing and it’s human nature, regardless of location, to play with the unknown. I believe gaming strategy is crucial to creating memorable experiences, even if it is just a false sense of winning helps. People often confuse gaming strategy with video games, but it’s so important to know the difference and apply these strategies to create addictive interactions between the activation and the player. Once you make these interactions rewarding as well, you have something that is fun and infinitely more engaging.
Emotional engagements of any kind are more memorable than those where there is little or no emotional connection. The emotional hook, the connection between a player and the cat, is all in the eyes and the not knowing of what the cat could do next. We wanted the cat to look, hiss and growl at the visitor, and for the visitor to have influence but not control over the experience.
One of the really interesting things about working on this project is how the cat really did become part of the team. From comical moments in testing where the cat simply got bored of me, or got strangely angry at just one individual to the moments of calm, sitting next to the screen working, with the cat chilling out, lying on the floor next to you. It’s safe to say the whole team grew rather attached to the cat.
Sound plays a huge factor in connecting people at an emotional level. We produced a soundscape that made you want to step into the digital world we had created and soundFX that kept you alert and intrigued. Blending F-Type engines with jaguar roars, adding snarls, growls and even the ear flicks to make the cat seem alive.
Our ambition for this work exceeds the auto show but it was still key that we recognised our Catwalk installation as a moment in time that guests would want to share. What we created was a moment of illusion where the cat, behind the screens, in its digital habitat, walks off screen and as if by magic we augment the cat walking back into shot in front of the screens, to walk around the guest. The cat had to have a personality and with the devil being in the detail 50+ facial expression combinations were programmed into the cat. A final roar and logo lockup completes a video souvenir as well as an immediate printed takeaway. A few clicks to comply with GDPR and an email later, the HD video is uploaded to Facebook allowing easy sharing and engagement. We had to keep our AR animation quite open to be played with as we wanted players to create their own souvenir and have the freedom to curate their own story. The below video is my AR souvenir moment.
One of the bigger challenges we faced with this project was capturing the player interactions and gestures. It needed to be able to capture a variety of motions that were our triggers for the cat to react. We also wanted something that would become more accurate over time, so decided on WRNCH.AI the deep learning algorithm. This system allowed us to use easy to install and relatively cheap camera hardware that we could train to recognise specific gestures. One of the most interesting moments was in testing where we realised that someone placing their hands together in front of them was being mistaken for a ‘clap’ gesture. Because we were using WRNCH we were able to train the AI that this was not a clap. Because we have this system in place we can easily add new gestures and refine existing ones as the activation tours globally.
The reaction and results have been extremely strong with just short of 3000 unique players on the Jaguar stand at the Paris auto show. Each visitor received a personalised email and 70% clicked through to their personalised Facebook video. This gave Catwalk a reach (taken October 2018) of 29,913, 2458 Facebook reactions, 492 comments and 21,282 video views. A great result highlighting the experience reaching out much further than just the Paris auto show.