- GSD&M Team
Most military marketing efforts feature adrenaline-type depictions. So, when we were tasked to create an interactive experience that shows the value the U.S. Air Force puts on mental acumen, we were drawn to how cognitive skills represented something deeper and more universal than book smarts. That’s why we created E.C.H.O., which stands for Enhanced Cognitive Human Ops.
Initially we started in a very futuristic, technical place to reflect the tech-forward positioning of the Air Force. But the more we delved into the true focus of the experience, which is the study of cognitive abilities, we evolved the look and feel to be more bio-centric. That’s how we came up with the term, “techno-biology.” It combines elements of the human mind and technology in a futuristic way.
Standard web design practice involves creating screens that work well on web and mobile devices. Adding on VR created another layer of complexity that affected our technical approach. We designed and built E.C.H.O. to account for all platforms, and tested as we went to ensure the experience not only worked seamlessly across devices but allowed users to have the same quality of experience regardless of the device used.
Harnessing Active Theory's proprietary software allowed our 3D designers and technical artists to work alongside developers to build the E.C.H.O. experience. These included Hydra GUI which allows designers to create 3D scenes without writing code, Hydra 3D Engine that is optimized for maximum graphics throughput with reduced CPU usage, and Aura, a project encompassing our most recent accomplishments in running WebGL in native environments.
When it comes to finding that sweet spot between our ideas and the brand, we’re lucky. The Air Force is the most advanced branch of the military, so they expect us to bring them digital experiences that reflect that positioning. We push ourselves to live up to their expectations versus trying to sell them ours. Working with a brand that uses taxpayer dollars, the thing we’re most conscious of is being respectful of the budget.
Within the first month of its launch, 68,803 players spent an incredible seven minutes and twenty-six seconds playing E.C.H.O., to better their scores and seemingly improve their cognitive abilities. In the process, we further positioned the U.S. Air Force as the most advanced, innovative military branch amongst problem solvers and STEM enthusiasts by focusing on their mental and cognitive development in a fun and engaging way.
There’s so much to be excited about working in this space right now. Consumers are so digitally savvy that we’re constantly having to challenge ourselves to come up with ideas they’ve never seen before — which is why the creative team has become so elastic. It’s an ever-changing formula of disciplines from traditional writers and art directors to UX designers and experiential producers in order to create the right spark.