Jurassic Park Discovery Center


Jurassic Park Discovery Center




Creating a Reality

Try this: design a visitor experience based on the not-so-identical-twin pillars of real science and a Hollywood blockbuster. That’s the prize EAI won through an international design competition conducted by Universal Studios—to combine the experience of a museum with the entertainment visitors expect from a theme park. And with imagination, collaboration, and evaluation, EAI designed a discovery center that engaged its audience physically and intellectually, one that was based on science but not constrained by it.

Winning an international design competition conducted by Universal Studios, EAI combined the philosophy of a museum with the entertainment visitors expect from a theme park, creating a visitor experience based on the not-so-identical twin pillars of real science and a Hollywood blockbuster. All activities are selectable from a scan of options upon entry, all “readable” without the use of labels of complex instructions, allowing the Center to be completely accessible to visitors of any age, from any part of the world. 

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As part of Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center demanded the feel of the iconic film, with Hollywood production values and theme park excitement.


Eisterhold Associate’s in-house talent collaborated with Universal’s creative team to craft a distinctly different Discovery Center.

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The building architecture and interior were based on sets from the movie. Since the Discovery Center needed to serve a global, non-English-speaking, all-ages audience, every design had to be intuitive at all levels without signage.



Most of our exhibits are reality based, and Jurassic Park was no exception. The difference was we had to first understand Universal’s take on reality and then produce a Discovery Center based on that version of pre-history.


This began with a lobby re-created from the one in the movie, complete with the actual skeletal reproductions that were used on the set.


But the lobby was the only part of the Discovery Center shown in the movie—we had to design the rest.

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The only thing better than seeing a dinosaur is getting to be one. Beasaur gives visitors the chance to experience the world as an life-size dinosaur—to “Be-a-saur”.


This project included design, fabrication and installation of three full scale animated dinosaurs allowing visitors to see, hear, and sound like these long-extinct beasts.


Visitors can experience three different ways of “seeing”: heat-sensing, edge-detection, and motion-sensing.


Controls had to be simple enough for small children to use. They also needed to be built with robust mechanisms that could withstand rough play and hundreds of visitors each day.

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DNA Sequencing

In Jurassic Park, a video explains how dinosaur blood is combined with frog DNA to resurrect these ancient creatures.

At the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, visitors get to take genetic engineering to a whole new level, combining their own DNA with dinosaur DNA.

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To bring these mock experiments to life, Eisterhold Associates wrote software that shows visitors a 3D image of themselves as a dinosaur.

First, visitors select a type of dinosaur. Next, they get a “brain scan” (secretly having their picture taken) to assure alignment of mental capacities. Then we sample their DNA (using a harmless puff of air). The system flashes and beeps as the CPU processes the results.


Finally, visitors are presented with a 3D form image of their dinosaur-selves that they can rotate to inspect the combination of characteristics.

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Rock Wall Scanner

The rock wall scanners at the Discovery Center give kids the chance to hunt for dinosaur fossils.

Using scanning devices based on the “Thumpers” from the movie, visitors scan a reproduction rock wall from the North Sea for fossils from the Jurassic, Triassic, and Cretaceous eras.

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The wall contains real, fossilized dinosaur bits. Occasionally, pockets of fossilized phytoplankton are discovered, teaching visitors that the biomass of single-cell creatures far outweighs that of vertebrates. Sometimes they even find oil!


Visitors move the scanners over the rock and when they see something they want to investigate, they’re given the option to “drill down.”

The scanners are actually monitors that play over layers of digital information, offering visitors a 1:1 digital image. As visitors roll up & down, left to right, the data layer follows the visual layer.


When visitors drill down, the display sequence locks in on whatever fossil was located under the screen. First, it analyzes the direct view, then compositing this into an overall view of the whole fossil. Last, it morphs into a full skeleton and then fleshes out the skeleton to reveal the full figure.

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Dino Nursery and Laboratory

Watching a baby velociraptor emerge from its shell is a uniquely memorable experience.

Eisterhold Associate’s in-house programmers, CGI artists, and animatronics techs collaborated on a working dino nursery.

Hatchlings emerge from dinosaur eggs and are carried away by watchful paleoveterinarians.

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We also developed interactive stations where visitors can test to see which species is inside the egg.

This requires programming and mechanics that give visitors enough clues to identify the species but prevents them from removing or switching eggs.

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Geared toward the very young but—fun for kids of all ages—Drawersaurs are filled with physical (and conceptual) comparisons for curious minds and active bodies.

This series of simple interactives lets visitors explore dinosaur bones, sounds and thoughts.

Visitors are coaxed to make imaginative comparisons between dinosaurs and people: everything from bones, teeth and footprints to our respective fears and sneezes.

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You Bet Jurassic

Lots of people think they know lots about dinosaurs.

A game with an edgy attitude, You Bet Jurassic tests what visitors know about dinosaurs and explodes the myth and misinformation about these endlessly fascinating creatures.

Operating in single or multi-player mode, alone or in a crowd, the game is designed as a social-participation tool: an active audience is part of the designed experience.

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Testing 1-2-3

We knew testing would be a critical step in meeting Universal Studios’ rigorous production standards.


We built prototypes of all displays and enlisted the help of visitors to ensure each exhibit was interesting enough to engage the thousands of theme-park visitors, be self-explanatory to foreign visitors, appeal to multiple audiences, and easy for children to operate.

Feedback on visitor experiences was taken through observation and behavior patterns rather than focus groups, or questionnaires. Actions turned out to be louder than words.