Sky has revealed plans to launch a new VR experience starring Sir David Attenborough this spring as part of its updated Sky VR app. The project, named Hold the World, teleports you to a one-on-one meeting with the legendary broadcaster at the world-renowned Natural History Museum.
While such a meeting is surely enough to captivate most audiences, Hold the World also offers a level of access that wouldn’t normally be possible on even the most exclusive of museum tours. For starters, it invites you to explore areas of the museum that are usually closed to the public, including the Conservation Centre, the Earth Sciences Library and the Cryptogamic Herbarium. Beyond this, you’re also given the chance to virtually pick up, hold and enlarge rare museum exhibits including a blue whale, trilobate, dragonfly and a stegosaurus.
As Tech Radar reports, these are samples so fragile that they aren’t often removed from storage, let alone offered up for close inspection by visitors. It therefore represents a groundbreaking opportunity to see the Natural History Museum’s world-famous collection in a way that’s never been possible before.
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“Hold the World is an extraordinary next step in how we can communicate and educate people about experiences they wouldn’t usually have access to in the real world,” explains Attenborough. “I am delighted about what users can learn and discover from the Natural History Museum’s treasures in this new VR experience – it really is one of the most convincing and bewitching experiences that the world of technology has yet produced.”
The experience takes between 20 minutes to an hour and gives you complete control over the locations you visit and the exhibits you examine. At times, the objects even come to life, giving you a better understanding of how the different species might have looked.
The lifelike 3D hologram of Attenborough was created using volumetric capture, which involved filming the veteran broadcaster with more than 100 cameras simultaneously. Photogrammetry, the science of making measurements from photographs, was used to recreate the museum itself, and finally, the museum’s CT scanning department worked with scientists and animators to create scientifically accurate models of each exhibit.
Sky worked with immersive content studio Factory 42 to produce the VR experience and its factual content was led by the Natural History Museum‘s scientists and, of course, Attenborough.
“Virtual reality is a really important new tool for getting our specimens out there and letting the public see them really up close and manipulate them,” says Professor Paul Barrett, a Natural History Museum dinosaur expert who worked on the stegosaurus model and animation.
“It’s the first time people will actually be able to hold these objects, pull them around and make them larger and smaller. It’s been a really exciting development for us here, because we are also seeing it in new ways for the first time too.”
Where can I experience it?
Hold the World, Sky’s first VR production to combine an interactive video game with TV documentary, will be available exclusively to Sky VIP customers when Sky VR relaunches this spring. The Sky VR app can be installed on a variety of VR devices including Google Daydream View, Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift. Hold The World will also be available as a standalone app on Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality for a limited time, ahead of the full Sky VR app launching on the platform later in the year.