RCMP Heritage Centre exhibit whips ‘Cadets’ into shape

A new exhibit at the RCMP Heritage Centre is putting people through their paces as Cadets-in-training.

Visitors will try to organize a replica dorm room to depot standards – with the help of a hologram drill sergeant.

The program uses HoloLens technology, which lets users see the real world around them, but listen and interact with a 3D program. It’s the latest addition to a burgeoning virtual reality program at the Heritage Centre.

Another program lets users hop in the saddle to experience the RCMP Musical Ride.

Since the dorm room exhibit was already in place, staff figured the HoloLens was the best way to spice it up.

It took nearly a year and plenty of research for Regina-based Melcher Studios to bring the program to fruition.

President Dwayne Melcher and his team went to the RCMP Academy to ensure the smallest details would be reflected in the final product.

“Until you actually experience it live in person, it’s crazy how much detail they have to go into,” Melcher said. “We’re talking millimetres for some of the bed sheets, and things to be placed. If not, you definitely get in a bit of trouble for sure!”

Without a doubt, the most important element was capturing the towering, gruff, Sergeant Major featured in the program. Clad in red serge with an enviable mustache, the drill sergeant is based on real-life retired officer Francois Desfosses, who flew into Regina from Ottawa for the computers to capture his every move.

“We filmed and choreographed, filmed, motion captured a lot of his mannerisms, the way he walked, the way he would interact with the cadets,” Melcher explained. “With those holograms we can actually add AI, artificial intelligence, so they can talk back to you, interact with you, that sort of thing. So it’s almost like you actually have a real person, in this case Francois, helping you as the drill sergeant.”

RCMP Heritage Centre Manager of Guest Experience and former officer Dan Toppings knows Desfosses personally, and believes he fit the bill perfectly.

“He commands respect,” Toppings said. “When cadets are in training, the drill staff try to earn the cadet’s respect. It’s part of the cadets leaving here with the feeling that the public will hopefully respect some of the decisions they have to make and carry themselves when doing their daily jobs.”

In the future, Melcher hopes to bring VR to the Heritage Centre’s flight exhibits. Toppings says it also presents an opportunity to show the public thousands of RCMP artifacts that are currently not on display.