Guangzhou Zoo ditches its cages in favor of environmentally-friendly VR exhibits.
Southern China isn’t exactly known for its well-managed zoos. The populous nation has a history of poorly-funded animal exhibits that often fall well within the confines of animal cruelty. Some establishments have even been accused of trying to pass off domestic animals as exotic wildlife in an effort to trick paying visitors. Perhaps, rather than subject endangered creatures to horrible living conditions, it would be best to remove these animals from the equation entirely by returning them to their respective habitats and replacing them with authentic digital recreations.
That’s the logic behind the Guangzhou Zoo’s VR exhibit, a bold initiative that removes live animals and replaces them with AR, VR, and holographic laser projection exhibits. Upon entering the next generation zoo experience, visitors are provided with VR headsets which they can use with their smartphones to view interactive exhibits of lions, monkeys, elephants, and various other wild animals, as they feed, breed, play, and prey from within their respective habitats.
“We use almost all immersion technologies, such as VR, AR, MR, 3D projection and holography,” spoke Xiang Xi, CEO of Guangzhou Time Network Technology Co Ltd, a company involved with the initial development of the program.
“Tourists can interact with animals without disturbing them,” adds Liang Fengyun, head of the Guangzhou Zoo.
Phase one of the initiative cost a reported 20 million yuan ($3.1 million USD), with an even larger investment planned for phase two; a rather risky amount, until you realize the VR exhibit saw over 20,000 visitors in its first day alone.
Guangzhou Zoo plans on expanding its VR efforts with the launch of a full VR-dedicated zoo in early 2019. An online version of the VR exhibits will also be made available for remote users in 2019.
Image Credit: Southern Metropolis News / South China News