Meet the Team: Alex Geller

January 30, 2013

Alex Geller

Alex Geller

January means a new semester, which means new superstar co-ops from the University of Cincinnati's Design, Architecture, Art and Planning program!  Today, we're asking five questions of industrial design student, Alex Geller:

1. My favorite part of the design process is …
... making physical models. I love working with my hands and using different materials to create a prototype that can be explored tactilely.

2. Do you collect anything? If so, what?
I collect Snapple caps. I love reading all the different facts, and I eventually want to collect enough to cover a table top.

3. The person who has influenced my career the most is …
...definitely my dad. My dad is a jewelry designer and is the one who introduced me to industrial design.

4. What was your very first pet?
My dog Mayzie is the only pet I've ever had. She is a yellow lab, but both of her parents were chocolate labs. Since her features and fur are very light, my family calls her a white chocolate lab.

5. What ís your favorite food?
I like just about everything. But if I had to pick a favorite, I would pick my dad's homemade steak tips.

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Cincinnati's All-Star Future

January 23, 2013

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To discover more about the Reds' rich history, visit the JRA-designed exhibits at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

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The 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is coming to our hometown.

Such was the announcement made by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at Great American Ballpark, home of our friends the Cincinnati Reds. With the announcement came a $1.5 million dollar contribution for the Reds Urban Youth Academy, a brand new facility, to be completed in 2014, which will provide year-round baseball and softball instruction and educational programs to Greater Cincinnati youth. “Cincinnati filled all the needs that we have and then some,” Commissioner Selig said when asked why the city received this honor. “It’s got great history, great fandom, and a great collaboration with the city.” 

Baseball’s “great history” with Cincinnati goeas all the way back to 1869, when the “Red Stockings” played in baseball’s first professional game. Cincinnati hosted another pioneer moment in 1935, when the first night game was played at the Reds’ Crosley Field (President Roosevelt symbolically switched on the lights from Washington, DC). The inaugural MLB All-Star Game would be played at Crosley just three years later and then again in 1953.

The 1970s brought a decade of dominance with the Big Red Machine, a powerhouse set of players that led the Reds to four National League Pennants (league championships) and two consecutive World Series Championships in 1975 and 1976. Helmed by Sparky Anderson and led by such greats as Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion, the ‘75-‘76 Big Red Machine squad is widely considered to be one of the best professional baseball teams ever. The Reds won their last World Series in 1990 (for a total of 5) and their last division title just six months ago led by such all-star players as Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.  This illustrious tradition, coupled with Cincinnati’s twice-successful hosting of another annual marquis MLB event, the 2009 and 2010 Civil Rights Games, made the city a natural choice for another All-Star Game, demonstrating the city and the franchise’s capacity to make magical baseball moments for legions of fans.

The 2015 Game will be the first “Midsummer Classic” held in Cincinnati since 1988 and the first ever held in Great American Ball Park, which was constructed in 2003 and which houses the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. In addition to the game itself, Cincinnati and the ballpark will play host to the annual Home Run Derby, the Futures Game (featuring minor league players) and a FanFest. It all adds up to a week of baseball tradition that will welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the city Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once called “the Queen City of the West”.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, having the All-Star Game in Cincinnati has portended good things for the hometown Reds, stretching all the way back to 1938, that first-ever All-Star Game, which led the Reds to a World Series in 1939 and a World Championship in 1940. Ever since, every Queen City All-Star Game has led to a World Series appearance or championship within the following 3 years. We’re sure that Reds CEO Bob Castellini is hoping the outcome of the 2015 Game will be no different.

While it is too soon to tell what the economic impact of the All-Star Game will be to Cincinnati, Selig estimated the financial benefit to reach somewhere between $80-$100 million, and All-Star Games held in similarly-sized cities in recent years have brought in over $60 million. Even more impactful, however, will be the media exposure to the wealth of development that has already occurred in the city, including a new riverfront park and mixed-use development directly adjacent to the stadium. Most importantly, it will be another chapter in Cincinnati’s great baseball history.

“Baseball is a part of the fabric of the City. It’s part of the fabric of Cincinnati families,” said Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory at the announcement. “It’s something we group up with. It’s something we cherish. That’s what makes this important.”

Tags: Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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The Disney "Magic" of RFID

January 16, 2013

Photo courtesy Disney

Photo courtesy Disney

In the wake of Disney’s recent grand unveiling of their MyMagic+ system as reported by our friend Robert Niles at Theme Park Insider, we thought this would be a good time to re-visit the history of RFID, its uses in the themed entertainment industry, and its implications for the future of attractions and museums.

Although radio waves were used as espionage tools by the Soviet Union in 1945 and by the allies in WWII to identify enemy aircraft, the first true ancestor of RFID (or radio-frequency identification) was patented in 1973. Since then, the technology, in which a reader uses radio-frequency magnetic fields to access data attached to or embedded in an object, has since surfaced in the pharmaceutical, automotive, manufacturing and agricultural industries to track products, animals and people.

The application of RFID in theme parks and other entertainment attractions is also nothing new. Great Wolf Resorts has used the technology since 2006, removing the need for guests to worry about carrying (or losing) room keys or credit cards. The Exploratorium has used RFID to provide additional exhibit content to guests, and other museums have employed the technology in educational gaming scenarios (i.e., tracking a guest’s game points and emailing or texting them a discount or reward). As we reported in our trends blog last month, at Live Park 4D in Korea, RFID bracelets enable guests to interact with the environments and attractions of the world’s first 4D avatar theme park. But when Disney adopts a technology, cue the industry paradigm shift.

Disney’s MyMagic+ system, currently in testing phase and launching later this year, hopes to revolutionize the way guests experience their parks. The journey begins at the “My Disney Experience” webpage, the one-stop shop where potential guests are encouraged not only to make a hotel or park reservation, but also to provide such personal information as ride preferences, food favorites, and special occasion dates such as an anniversary or birthday. They’ll also enjoy a re-vamped FastPass system called FastPass+, where they can reserve ride times from home (as opposed to the current paper ticket system). They can also reserve seating for dinners and shows as well as specific character meet-and-greet opportunities.

But perhaps the most groundbreaking phase of the new MyMagic+ system occurs when the guest enters the Walt Disney World Resort property. Guests will receive a MagicBand that replaces the paper tickets they use for the park and even the keys that open their hotel room. With a flick of their wristband against one of the park’s many sensors, they can order food, purchase souvenirs or check on their FastPass+ reservation times. The wristband will even allow costumed characters to greet the guest with their name and special occasion (i.e., Sue and John, I see you are on your honeymoon. Congratulations!”). Almost as important as making the guests’ current visit memorable and convenient, the bands will help Disney record consumer behavior (which costumed characters the guest greeted, which restaurants they ate in, which attractions they rode), to hone its offerings for that guest’s next trip. Initially, MagicBands will only be available to WDW hotel guests, annual passholders and those guests who purchase a photography package, but there is expectation that over the next twelve months the availability of the MagicBand will expand to all guests.

According to a January 7th New York Times article, while Disney’s latest innovation could lead to a more personalized experience and will undoubtedly increase per cap spending, there is concern that such uses of RFID could have negative implications for consumer privacy, particularly with regards to children. USA Today asked the question more pointedly with their headline: “Disney’s new wireless wristbands: convenient or creepy?”. However, via Disney’s company blog, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs asserted that the degree to which a guest divulges their information in the MyMagic+ scheme is entirely up to them:

Ensuring the security of our guest’s information is obviously very important to us, and no one is more focused on this than we are. Everything is opt-in, and guests will have the opportunity to choose what information they share with us. Nothing is more important to us than protecting that information. Guests should also know that the band does not store personal information.

While it remains to be seen whether guest’s concerns about privacy will damper Disney’s latest initiative, what is clear is that RFID-based experiences are becoming more and more popular in leisure destinations and cultural attractions as they look for new ways to engage their guests in a personal manner. Should RFID also prove to help improve operations and increase revenue for operators, these mutual benefits will likely result in an increased use and refinement of this simple, yet effective technology.

So what do you think?  Do you consider this latest employment of RFID technology innovative or intrusive?  We'd love to hear your thoughts here, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter feed.  Thanks for reading!

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Meet the Team: Mike Meyer

January 09, 2013

Mike Meyer, Senior Project Director

Mike Meyer, Senior Project Director

With a strong background in architecture and years of experience working on the client side of design, Mike Meyer brings a broad range of skills and a unique perspective to each project as Senior Project Director at Jack Rouse Associates.

After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University and his Master of Architecture degree from Miami University, Mike joined the Cincinnati Museum Center. For four years he served as the Director of Special Exhibits, where he planned, designed and implemented exhibits for the two museums housed within the facility: the Cincinnati History Museum and Cincinnati Natural History Museum. Mike now leverages that valuable experience to the benefit of each of JRA’s museum clients.

Mike’s current and past work at JRA includes designing static and interactive exhibits for a variety of projects such as the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame; SUE exhibit at The Field Museum; Imaginosity - Dublin Children’s Museum; Peoria PlayHouse; El Museo de los Niños –– Guatemala Children’s Museum; Guangdong Science Center; Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples; McKenna Children’s Museum; Imagine It! Atlanta Children’s Museum; Go For Broke National Education Center; Oslo Barnemuseum Chidren’s Museum. Mike also has provided creative input for a variety of entertainment projects, including work for HarborLand in Ningbo, China.  He is currently at work on a children's museum in China and a brand experience in the US.

Outside the studio, Mike is an accomplished visual artist, selling his works at art shows across the Midwest.

 

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Happy New Year!

January 02, 2013

And we're back, looking forward to a new year full of great projects and fantastic people. This year, we're resolving to get more feedback from our readers. To do that, though, we need your help - what about the themed attraction industry, or museum/attraction design do YOU want to learn about? Send us your burning questions, and we'll blog our best answers!

Next week, we'll introduce you to one of JRA's finest, Mike Meyer.

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