The blue whale

The Natural History Museum has unveiled a brand new centrepiece for Hintze Hall - Hope the blue whale. To coincide with the event the Natural History Museum asked Potato to create an online experience as impressive as their whale skeleton itself.

The project posed the enormous challenge of how to reflect this breathtaking specimen within the confines of a digital experience. Potato were tasked with building this experience, which aims to reflect the whale’s history. We set out to achieve that in collaboration with the museum, via story, audio and playful digital flourishes.

Through the digital experience, visitors can discover more about the whale itself, its journey from ocean to beach to museum, the innovative techniques the museum’s team have used to learn about the stunning mammal, and the importance of the whale’s new position in the museum’s Hintze Hall. Hope, a giant of the ocean, is not only a symbol of amazing biodiversity, but a testament to our understanding of the natural world and our own impact on it.

View the life of the blue whale

  • Used responsive image generation to ensure crisp, detailed images on 4x retina screens but 3G friendly images for mobile devices
  • Built with Grow as a versatile microsite generator to create an easily portable site that could be deployed anywhere
  • Immersive experience with interactive background elements and accompanying audio based on different whale environments
We worked with the Natural History Museum extensively to map out the whale’s story, and uncovered how to build a piece that would give the user the broadest sense of this majestic creature’s epic journey.
We wanted to create a site that felt ‘lived in’. To that end, we wanted to give our scenes a sense of depth. We started by printing out the different environments.
The process involved multiple rounds of cutting and rescanning, again and again, until we had a set of building blocks that we could use to build a 3D scene.
It was important for us to build this environment physically first, to understand how the spaces could be extruded.
At the same time, we started to build the ‘environment’ in the browser, using the coordinates we were creating on paper, to build a 3D space. We had been asked to introduce a playful element to the experience and started working to make the scene react to the user’s movement.
Once we had established our scenes, we began to feed the imagery back into the 3D area, where we could adjust colours and depth accordingly. We used audio created by the museum to further bring to life this experience.
Each of the three environments have a series of hotspots scattered around them, which invite the user to explore a wide variety of short stories that revolve around the whale. These include short stories, infographics and videos, many with links out to the wider Natural History Museum website for further information.

Visitors to the museum will be prompted to view the website when they arrive at Hintze Hall, so it was incredibly important that we create a mobile version of the site that felt engaging and immersive. Users on mobile devices can interact with the scene based on tilt motions, with different image sizes and resolutions used based upon connection speed and device type.