In one breath, I’m standing in an atmospherically dim room surrounded by the low chatter of fellow museum-goers, in the next, I’m on the deck of a sunken ship as schools of fish and manta rays glide through the water overhead. By the time a curious blue whale majestically swoops down so that we’re eye-to-giant-eye, I’ve long forgotten my time as landlubber.
Such is the immediately immersive effect of theBlu, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles’ immersive Virtual Reality exhibit. The VR experience allows visitors to explore three different oceanic environments and the marine life that call them home. But it’s not just plopping a headset on and turning this way and that to get a glimpse of your underwater compatriots. Users are fully able to walk around the deck of a ship or the top of a coral reef and (with the help of a controller) finally live out your dream of prodding any jellyfish foolish enough to float within your reach.
The vivid experience was created by virtual reality studio Wevr. The Wevr team, lead by Jake Rowell (whose previous work includes such video game titles as “Call of Duty” and “Final Fantasy”), consulted with NHMLA’s own scientists, ensuring that the marine life and their environments were scientifically accurate.
Indeed, if (like me) you’ve always been intrigued by the greater depths of the ocean but simultaneously harbored a fear of the potential dangers involved with real life diving, theBlu is an ideal way to experience that world from a first person point of view. But even if you are a seasoned diver, theBlu still has something wholly unique to offer, as the experience’s most thrilling section isn’t something you could do on a real life dive.
The third portion takes audiences into the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean. Using a physical controller, you sweep your VR flashlight through the darkness, illuminating grimacing visages of anglerfish and the skeletal remains of a whale. These parts of the deep-sea are inaccessible to divers. Plus, even if you could reach such depths, it’s all but guaranteed you’d never get the chance to come face to face with the famously elusive giant squid. And that right there is the beauty of virtual reality—the beauty of theBlu.
The exhibit will be available until April 28. Tickets are $8 for members and $10 for the general public.
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