You can take a virtual trip to Stonehenge and snap a selfie in the process.
When it comes to virtual reality content, quite a bit of emphasis has been placed on gaming.
But as the technology make its way into the hands of a new breed of creators, we are getting more glimpses into the greater potential of VR — one of those being educational VR tools.
Working out of a modest two-story house tucked away in a historic Hollywood neighborhood, Christian Bretz is giving me a demo of his Stonehenge VR experience, just days before he has to pack up everything and make the journey to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
Bretz is one of those new breed of VR creators. Coming from a background in filmmaking — something that comes as no surprise living in Los Angeles — he has shifted his entire career to VR after trying early versions of the Oculus Rift. Blown away by the potential of the new medium, Bretz locked himself in his house for months, teaching himself Unreal Engine so he could begin building VR content of his own.
Committing himself to creating experiences that moved beyond just games and 360-degree videos, Bretz founded Voyager VR with his partner Jessica Villarreal (host of VR Weekly) and set out to build educational content that not only took full advantage of room-scale immersion, but also create experiences that can live as an exhibit in science centers and museums around the world.
Fast forward to today — now when you step into the Pacific Science Center, past the world’s largest display of LEGO art and exhibits of vintage Viewmasters and stereoscopes, lies Stonehenge VR. Introducing visitors of all ages, most who have never experienced VR in their life, the VR experience takes you on an educational trip of the prehistoric monument.
As part of a test pilot in the “History of 3D” exhibit, underneath the Boeing IMAX Theater, the VR demo transports you to the grounds of Stonehenge. The entire experience runs close to 10 minutes long and was created by referencing aerial photographs, 360 photo spheres from Google Maps, documentaries and measurements found online.
As you walk the grounds and stand in the middle of towering rocks, not only can you go on a virtual tour to learn about the history and archaeological evidence of Stonehenge, you can interact with elements around you in this mysterious man-made construction. Your right hand turns into a gravity gun that lets you pick up objects like rocks and toss them through the air.
But one of the more popular features of Stonehenge VR is the ability to snap photos. Your left hand turns into a virtual camera, letting you snap photos as you walk around Stonehenge, as if you were an actual tourist visiting for the first time. And in what has become normal for this generation, you can also take a selfie with Stonehenge in the background.
After completing the virtual tour, you take off the headset and a friendly staff member brings over an iPad, where you can review the virtual photos you just captured and select which ones you want to share on social media.
The entire experience is interactive and educational all at the same time. And it’s demonstrations like this in public learning environments, that not only introduces the masses to VR, but also opens the eyes of educators to the potential VR has to offer in transforming the landscape of education.
If you’re interested in checking out Stonehenge VR at the Pacific Science Center, the experience will be available for the next couple weeks, Thursday through Saturday from 10:30 – 2:00pm with expanding hours coming soon.
Stonehenge VR will make its way to Steam VR later this year as well.