Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment company that produces immersive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms. Meow Wolf’s second permanent art exhibition, Omega Mart is an interactive “supermarket” that empowers artists and viewers to experience art in completely different ways. “Omega Mart masquerades as a grocery store, but there’s a whole lot more going on behind the scenes,” said Jordan Snyder, Vice President of Platform at Meow Wolf.
Omega Mart is the world’s most surreal supermarket and sensory playground featuring otherworldly displays, hidden portals, and shelves stocked with peculiar products. With live, interactive displays that are accessible via RFID-powered cards, shoppers become part of the experience.
To make Meow Wolf’s vision of an immersive, surreal supermarket come to life, it required an on-premises capability to support Omega Mart. The interactive gameplay element of the Omega Mart experience requires low latency on the order of thousandths of a second, which is only possible with on-premises systems.
“We knew early on that we needed to run Omega Mart on-prem because we had a very narrow window for errors in system responsiveness,” said Snyder. “We don’t want the installation to go down when the internet goes down. It can’t take too long to respond to a user and their interaction. Users can easily perceive system latency that exceeds 50 milliseconds.”
The requirements for such low latency relate to relaying information between the user and the Omega Mart back office system where a lot of number crunching happens. “We can give the user such a dynamic, rich experience because so many decisions are being made on the backend at any given time,” said Snyder. “Those decisions need to be made very quickly.”
To develop the applications for Omega Mart, Meow Wolf determined if they connected to the internet to leverage the scalability and flexibility of cloud computing, the process would be quicker. After developing the applications in the cloud, they would have to be capable of running on-prem.
To make the interactive Omega Mart art experience a reality, Meow Wolf selected Google Cloud Platform, and partnered with SADA, a three-time Google Cloud Reseller Partner of the Year. SADA’s Anthos experts helped Meow Wolf design and apply solutions to meet Omega Mart’s needs. Using the power of Anthos, SADA and Meow Wolf leveraged its hybrid technology to provide Kubernetes on site at the Las Vegas installation.
“We evaluated many managed Kubernetes systems,” said Nathan Bloom, DevOps Engineer at Meow Wolf. “Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) was better than the other Kubernetes environments we had looked at, so we were very comfortable with it. In addition, GKE offers a robust API capability and lots of tools. Those options made it very attractive for us as developers.”
Leveraging Anthos, Meow Wolf built the Omega Mart applications in the cloud with the ability to run them on-prem. Anthos also allows engineers more flexibility and agility to develop applications in the cloud than on-prem.
“The technological edge of Anthos allows us to iterate and innovate much more,” said Bloom. “It enables us to develop at the speed of cloud. Anthos brought uniformity to our development operations.”Nathan Bloom | DevOps Engineer at Meow Wolf
With Anthos, GCP workloads can be managed locally. However, if the internet connection to the cloud goes down, Anthos enables Omega Mart to continue to operate only with its on-prem systems. “SADA and GCP allow Meow Wolf to continue to pioneer new practices in building and operating digital experiences for our customers,” said Snyder.
As a result of working with SADA, Meow Wolf successfully opened Omega Mart to the public in February 2021.
“SADA has been instrumental to the process of launching Omega Mart–from helping us conceive the technical solutions built on Anthos to tackling hurdles along the way. Their guidance, expertise, and support have helped make Omega Mart a huge success.”Jordan Snyder | Vice President of Platform at Meow Wolf
The complex, always-on nature of the Omega Mart exhibit required the most reliable, scalable infrastructure, which Anthos delivered, with the help of SADA’s expert cloud engineers. “As soon as Google Cloud pointed us toward SADA, they immediately jumped into the process of discovering how we would consume Anthos and mapping that out,” said Bloom. “Their team figured it out straight down to the nuts and bolts of how we wanted to architect it.”
After the exhibit opening, SADA continues to provide technical account management and support for Meow Wolf, Omega Mart, and Anthos. “At Meow Wolf, we have two constraints for creating interactive art exhibits. We need our developers to develop at the speed of the cloud, but they also must be able to build systems that can operate if there’s no internet,” said Snyder. “Anthos fulfills both requirements and SADA was essential in implementing it, which helped us create the groundbreaking Omega Mart experience that immerses guests in a unique way.”
As visitors go through the Omega Mart interactive exhibit, their actions have a real-time effect on the experience because they impact the environment throughout their visit. “It couldn’t do that without the highly available services of Anthos and GCP,” said Snyder.
Since its opening, Omega Mart has garnered high-profile reviews from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Forbes, was named one of the five best things to see in Las Vegas by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and most recently was awarded “Best in Show” across all categories, including Immersivity, in Blooloop’s 2021 Innovation Awards.