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Portola Valley, California -- November 14, 1994 -- Telepresence Research announced the official opening on October 8, 1994 of its "Virtual Brewery Adventure" at the Sapporo Beer Visitor's Center, Yebisu Garden Place, Tokyo. Telepresence Research directed and produced the interactive, immersive experience, provided system design and integration, and installed the hardware on site. In the first three weeks since it opened, thousands of viewers have already explored the virtual brewery, choosing what they see and where they move through virtual space.

Sapporo wanted an innovative, high-tech centerpiece for its new Visitor's Center in the multibillion-dollar complex, built on the site of the original Sapporo Brewery. The exhibit had to be interactive, educational, fun to use, and accessible to a large number of people. Sapporo modestly projected around 150,000 visitors for the exhibitÕs first year -- but in the first three weeks alone, 70,000 people have flocked to the Center to learn about beer, real and virtual.

Teamwork and Planning

Sapporo contacted Telepresence Research in the fall of 1993 for preliminary negotiations and storyboard planning. By April 1994, after the experience content was agreed upon, the firms signed a formal agreement for the project implementation. Four months later Telepresence delivered the hardware and software, and spent a month in Tokyo installing everything.

Telepresence Research produced, directed, and designed the brewery's virtual world. The company drew on the expertise of its strategic alliance for help with the innovative sound system, graphics, and interactive viewing platform. The project team included Fakespace, Inc., Crystal River Engineering, Silicon Graphics, Inc., and Magic Box Productions.

Virtual Brewery Development Team

Exhibit Design

The Brewery Adventure was designed to allow different levels of interaction with the virtual world. The primary viewing station is a Fakespace BOOM 3C+ Viewer, a stereoscopic color viewer that works like a pair of wide-angle binoculars at the end of a counterbalanced mechanical linkage. Beer adventurers grip the handles below the eyepiece and look directly into the virtual world, manipulating the viewer with six degrees of freedom. As they fly through a virtual vat of beer, they can turn their attention anywhere, even behind them. A Silicon Graphics ONYX Reality Engine II generates the virtual environment in real time as visitors choose their flight path. As they crash into yeast particles or zip through filters, they hear 3-D localized sound through speakers next to each ear, thanks to the "Acoustetron II" sound system developed by Crystal River Engineering and unique sounds by composer Mark Trayle.

The exhibit includes twelve additional 3-D viewing stations where other visitors can see and hear the experience from the viewpoint of the BOOM user. Telepresence Research decided on the use of static viewers because of the volume of visitors expected by Sapporo. Telepresence contracted Fakespace, Inc. to build the viewers, which will now become part of FakespaceÕs product line.

For the faint of heart, a large rear-screen video projector and several monitors provide sounds and two-dimensional images from the virtual world.

The Tour Experience

The "Virtual Brewery Adventure" takes you on a physically impossible journey that lasts about five minutes. Your ride begins outside the old Sapporo Brewery, which has disappeared from the physical world but flourishes in this virtual space. You may examine the building from the outside, taking a few seconds to admire the surrounding foliage and an impressive, looming Mount Fuji. The texture-mapped guide who greets you at the door waves you through to a corridor lined with giant, glass-walled tanks full of bubbling brew. More guides in the control room explain each of four possible experiences. They direct your attention to four large windows through which you glimpse particular stages in the beer-making process: brewing, fermentation, filtration, and bottling. You choose one segment by plunging into the control panel below the appropriate window ... and then things get molecular.

You shrink to the size of a tiny beer particle. As you fly through the brewing tank, enormous hops whiz past, explode noisily by your left ear or below your feet. You ferment along with yeast structures that float around you in giant colonies. If you dare look backwards as you careen through the filter processing world, you can see colored impurities stick in the weblike mesh and disappear behind you. In the bottling plant you watch lines of softly clanking bottles fill with liquid and hear the pneumatic "thwack!" of labels on glass. When you have finished exploring one segment and regained normal size, you are free to wait in line again to view a different world.

Artistic director Perry Hoberman helped design the look and feel of the Virtual Brewery. "This is an artistic interpretation of a scientific process," he says. "Some of the environments are quite realistic, others are highly stylized and even surreal. Still they are all clear, engaging representations of the brewing process."


The "Virtual Brewery Adventure" is the only publicly accessible, commercial Virtual Reality site of its size in Japan. Telepresence Research designed it to accommodate a large number of viewers; and this consideration drove innovation in hardware and content. Contrary to head-mounted displays, which are often too delicate for public installations, the Fakespace BOOM 3C+ and static viewers comfortably handle thousands of visitors a day. The BOOM is intuitive to use, easily controlled, and delivers high-resolution optic and aural information very quickly. Because participants can control and change their viewpoint constantly, they never have the same experience twice.

Like "Menagerie," a virtual experience Telepresence Research exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1993, the "Virtual Brewery Adventure" provides content that appeals to all ages. It is also an experiment in non-photorealistic virtual environments. Telepresence ResearchÕs managing director Scott Fisher comments, "In this project we combined a photorealistic structure, like the old Sapporo Brewery, with a 'non-realistic' fantasy environment. We were free to imagine a whole world on the microscopic level. The point was to give viewers an immersive experience they can never have in the physical world -- letting them see the unseen."

Telepresence Research anticipates further software development with Sapporo. Other possible markets for this technology include entertainment applications and education. Telepresence can customize systems and software to suit each client's particular needs.

Telepresence Research is based in Portola Valley, California. The company provides contract research and development services including concept development, product design and prototyping, system integration, and world design for computer-generated Virtual Environments and video-based Remote Presence experiences. Products include the Telepresence Mobile Robot System, and a high-performance graphics and display platform for Virtual Environment presentations. For online information and graphics please access the Telepresence Research Web page:

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Revised: 2-20-95