Come next January there will be a whole lot of exploring going on at Royal Caribbean in Miami. Ground has already been broken for a new “cave,” or more precisely the building that will contain it.
The “cave” – a room-sized virtual reality simulator – is just part of the Innovation Lab now being built in PortMiami adjacent to Royal’s corporate headquarters. A first-of-its-kind facility built entirely designed to promote the “relentless innovation” that powers the cruiseline, the building will house unique collaborative spaces where new ideas can tested and tweaked.
Those who spend time in there will have visions, all of them so vivid that at first someone is almost certain to reach out and try to touch something that isn’t really there.
“Innovation is nothing new for us,” Kelly Gonzalez says without a tinge of irony. “Our daily existence here is thriving off of always wanting to raise the bar a little higher. And go a little further.”
Gonzalez, RCL vice president of architectural design, fairly gushes when describes the 20,000-square-foot, two-story lab intended to function as an idea mill where most of the moving parts are human.
“Imagine a large conference room that eight to 10 people would walk into,” Gonzalez says. “Now imagine the floor is one seamless sheet of glass and there’s rear projection underneath it.” The ceiling and three of the four walls are set up the same way, and people entering the room wear special glasses that are an even more substantial than 3D movie specs.
“The whole room is Virtual Reality,” Gonzalez continues. “But when you put the glasses on, you and the people you’re with are all sharing the same experience in that room.”
What they see and can almost touch may be a new ship, or parts of it, in the planning stages. It could be a next generation stateroom or intricate layout of the engine room. It could be anything, made almost real. And working together, collaborating, they can see and solve problems that visualization or one-dimensional drawings might not reveal.
Much of the first floor will be open space large enough to allow the construction of full-size mockups of shipboard spaces and the things that fill them – “real” reality rather than virtual – for trials, tests and aesthetics.
The rest of the building will contain “ignition hubs” where people from different departments and vendors will gather to spend hours, days or weeks talking through problems and projects.
“It’s mostly glass with natural light coming in,” Gonzalez says of a typical ignition hub. “Trying to get free thinking, you don’t get the same kind of results when you’re working in a room with four gray walls around you.”
High ceilings, almost 12 feet, further open the space for expansive ideas. And there will be a few places to sit alone, as needed, before returning to the intensity of the group.
Call it deliberation before collaboration, the better to serve innovation.
Completion date for the lab is the end of January.