Marine theme parks across the world have struggled with adapting their attractions to fit the ever-evolving view of the public, and as technology expands, the answer becomes clearer and clearer: an aquarium even more immersive and special than before, but without any animals at all. Florida is on track to build one of the largest aquariums in the state using interactive, advanced, and augmented reality technology.

One of the first aquariums to support this kind of tech is Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, offering eight simulators by acclaimed VR company Immotion, and allowing guests to get closer to nature than ever before without the captivity.

U.K.-based Immotion has had massive success with its live-action humpback whale VR experience, and recently they’ve partnered with marine biologists from the Bimini Shark Lab to expand their marine experiences.

Together, VR engineers and marine biologists documented never-before-seen footage of tiger and hammerhead sharks off Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, tagging the sharks with small, virtual-reality cameras.

This footage is the first of its kind and offers a unique perspective of how sharks move in their natural environment.

Immotion then takes that footage and programs their motion pods, where guests will sit and experience what researchers see in the field.

Not only is this attraction a way to enhance guests’ experience with nature, it’s also deeply educational and an amazing way to study the animals and the marine ecosystem as a whole.

The VR experience also allows for an in-depth look at animals that were previously unavailable to the public, like humpback whales and other endangered animals.

In New York City, an attraction called Ocean Odyssey is already using photo-real animations, projection mapping, real-time tracking, and massive projection screens to give an incredibly unique and authentic marine experience without any animals.

While Immotion is looking to expand its animal-focused VR experiences with attractions featuring far-away places like the Congo River (think forest elephants and mountain gorillas), the Sarasota Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is planning to build one of Florida’s largest aquariums.

Called the Mote Science Education Aquarium, the multi-year plan will cost roughly $130 million as they are committed to bringing their audiences the most advanced, digital experience possible.

No opening dates have been announced. 

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