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A look at 'AYA', the cutting-edge multimedia art-driven experience in Dubai

In a conversation with STIR, Rama Allen of HyperSpace discusses their ambitious entertainment venture.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Sep 09, 2023

"'AYA' is a gateway to an ancient future born light years away, developed by HyperSpace, a Future Forward Entertainment company that invents and operates physical parks for a digital world. AYA, located in the heart of Dubai at the Wafi City, combines art with the latest technology in a vibrant interactive experience over 12 rooms designed to light up social media. AYA is a space where travellers play, drift and dream as they experience observations full of stars, roam gardens blooming in light, and cross rivers that bridge the infinite."

These are words by Rama Allen, an interactive artist, strategist and futurist, Chief Creative Officer, and a Partner at HyperSpace, which launched AYA, the first of its kind immersive park in Dubai at the end of 2022. Allen discusses the monumental tech achievement that is AYA, telling STIR that the park is spread over 40,000 sq. feet, and invites its visitors to step into a bold new world of vibrant, interactive, and immersive experience across 12 different zones, each with its own themed blend of art and technology. He explains, saying “Travellers who enter AYA embark on a three-hour transformative journey across 12 rooms with something for everyone, from digital natives to families looking for a unique, out-of-this-world experience that is truly memorable.”

Audiences explore HyperSpace’s work at ‘AYA’, 2022 | AYA | STIRworld
Audiences explore HyperSpace’s work at AYA, 2022 Image: Courtesy of AYA

AYA has been making waves region-wise, having recently been recognised at the Middle East and North Africa Leisure & Attractions Council (MENALAC) Awards 2023, where it won the awards for ‘Most Unique Marketing Campaign’ and ‘Best New Entertainment Concept,’ all in less than 90 days since its opening. As a next-generation entertainment park for a digital world, HyperSpace believed that Dubai was the ideal home to launch AYA for its bold future tech and digital-enabled economic strategy which aims to develop the city into a global hub for the metaverse community and attract companies in the fields of blockchain and metaverse. Allen tells STIR, “This very much aligns with our vision to create next-generation attractions that connect to digital lifestyles and web3 culture.”

An audience member inside ‘AYA’, 2022 | AYA | STIRworld
An audience member inside AYA, 2022 Image: Courtesy of AYA

The experience draws audiences into a world where they can dance with avatars, jump through an upside-down waterfall, and lose themselves in an infinite maze of mirrored projections. Allen believes that HyperSpace has created an environment wherein there are more emotions to be triggered and more content-creation opportunities than one might ever imagine. The latter is particularly fascinating, as it indicates a growing understanding of the enablers of viral content across social media platforms, as well as the needs of content creators themselves, on the part of the entertainment industry. As of 2023, visually enthralling snippets from AYA have been making regular appearances across the internet, garnering great appreciation from a wide swathe of netizens. Many companies could take a leaf out of HyperSpace’s book, and consider the possibilities that experiential art venues hold for viral marketing.

An audience member looks at her reflection in a mirror, 2022 | AYA | STIRworld
An audience member looks at her reflection in a mirror, 2022 Image: Courtesy of AYA

Allen tells STIR, “AYA is truly inclusive—whether you are a grandparent or a child, what you see and hear, and how you play with elements across the zones will spark your emotions as you progress through our universe. Everyone with a soul will enjoy AYA.” When asked what some of his favourite zones are, he references Flora, where visitors may wander through a bioluminescent garden filled with creatures of light that respond and react to their movements. Allen says, “During this nine-minute-long interactive light show, you’ll be transported into an intelligent oasis of all living things, culminating with an incredible virtual thunderstorm.” There is also The River, where one may cross the deepest depths of a river of colour and light that generates storms and pools with their footsteps, as they head towards an audio-responsive waterfall that runs upside down. He also mentions Luna, which is a 1,250 square foot infinite mirror chamber filled with shimmering moons, which attempts to visualise the very sound of AYA through a surreal light show that takes travellers into the furthest reaches of the cosmos, where a six-minute performance that bends space and light propels them through a journey across the stars. Finally, Allen is also particularly fond of Tides, which features an infinite mirrored chamber adorned with LED totems, as well as an interactive monolith featuring an eight-minute show comprised of four different storytelling chapters.  

A man interacts with one of the exhibits at ‘AYA’, 2022 | AYA | STIRworld
A man interacts with one of the exhibits at AYA, 2022 Image: Courtesy of AYA

At AYA, “Travellers”, as Allen refers to visitors, are invited to depart from our mundane reality and embark on a fantastical journey that explores a vibrant cosmos. The amount of digital visual design that has gone into the making of the AYA experience is simply giddying, and will be sure to foster an audience base that keeps coming back for more. The visitor experience begins at Aurora and then moves on to The Source, then Drift, followed by Outland and The Pool. Moving on, travellers are treated to fantastical cosmic vistas, rolling hills and waterfalls at The River, The Falls, Celestia, Flora, Tides and finally, Harmonia, which completes the enthralling experience.

Two women stand inside a room at ‘AYA’, 2022 | AYA | STIRworld
Two women stand inside a room at AYA, 2022 Image: Courtesy of AYA

When asked where HyperSpace is taking this staggeringly ambitious project next, Allen tells STIR “We are now working on our second venue, the House of Hype at Dubai Mall, which is a, 100,000 square foot park that is an overstimulating world of fashion design, video games, music, NFT pieces and everything else that makes hype culture a global sensation. We will open that location this year.  Beyond that, we also have plans to expand locally, regionally, and globally with our existing AYA and House of Hype brands, as well as inventing and operating more physical parks for a digital world.” HyperSpace is paving the way ahead for experiential entertainment in a huge way, and other organisations within the same ambit must take note of what is happening in Dubai right now.

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