Discovery Dock in der Hafencity © Discovery Dock

Discovery Dock: Experiencing the port through VR

Harbour museum links up growth sectors of tourism and edutainment using new technologies

The Port of Hamburg, Europe’s third most important harbour and one of world’s 20 largest ports, can look back on a history that stretches back almost 830 years and continues to fascinate both tourists and residents alike. Huge cruise ships like the luxurious Queen Mary 2 tie up here, repeatedly drawing hordes of onlookers to the banks of the Elbe. Large container ships like the Antoine de Saint Exupéry, which measures 400 metres in length, has a beam of 59 metres and a maximum load capacity of 20,600 standard containers (TEU), dock here.

Turn around huge container ships single-handedly

Confronted with giants like these, tugs look like toys, not to mention people. The Discovery Dock in Hamburg’s HafenCity, which is set to open in spring, will allow visitors to experience at close hand the relationship in size between ship and human by diving into a virtual world. “We aim to show people at close hand how a port works by allowing unusual perspectives,” said Susan Molzow, CEO of the Hamburg-based Morgenpost Media, part of the DuMont media group. Visitors explore the microcosm of the Port of Hamburg using Virtual and Augmented Reality or 360° video technology, sitting high up in the cabin of a gantry crane to turn the ships around single-handedly. They can also investigate the animal world of the port – the Elbe is home to fish like smelt and to Chinese mitten crabs, and even porpoises have been sighted in the Port of Hamburg.

Susan Molzow, Discovery Dock

Focus on stories

“The technology is actually only the means to the end,” Molzow clarified. “We use modern technology to create the most spectacular experience possible. The stories are at the focus here.” Nevertheless, the Discovery Dock Am Kaiserkai 60, opposite the Elbphilharmonie should appeal to those interested in the port, in Hamburg, or simply in the tech. HPA, HHLA, Aida Cruises shipping company, the environmental authorities and the University of Hamburg are partners to the innovative Port Museum. A student group led by VR expert Professor Frank Steinicke programmed the pilot application.

Rivalry invigorates business

DuMont Media is the operator of the Discovery Dock. Commenting on the company’s involvement, Molzow explained: “We are living through rapid change in the media sector and started around two years ago to sound out new business areas in order to build other stable pillars for the future.” The growth market in tourism and edutainment was an obvious choice. “And we know from experience abroad, for instance in Amsterdam and London, that tourists consider the Mixed Reality Approach extremely attractive.” The Virtual Reality Headquarters (VRHQ) in the M28 creative warehouse in Speichertadt is seeking to draw locals and tourists alike with various ‘VR Experience Stations’ starting in May. It is also banking on this factor. The two leisure experiences are separated by a mere 700 metres. Competition or invigorating rivalry? “I believe that we complement each other perfectly,” Molzow said. “At M28 the aim is to break down fear of the new and to introduce people to VR. You will find the appropriate thematic approach with us.”

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