Virtual reality takes a man to the Moon in the Apollo 11 Experience, a Moon mission simulator for the Oculus and PC. The effort is spearheaded by David Whelan, editor of the Dublin-based Virtual Reality Reviewer and founder of Immersive VR Education, of which the Apollo 11 Experience is the first product.
The Experience uses archival footage and animation to bring the viewer along for a trip from a briefing room to the Moon landing, to a splashdown back on Earth. It runs on Oculus DK2 or a standard monitor on a Windows PC. (Versions for Oculus DK1 and Mac are said to be coming soon.) Viewers who use the Oculus’ virtual reality headset will walk beside digital models of the Saturn V, lunar lander, astronauts, and launch tower. All versions also include original audio, and interviews with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
The simulator was created by Dave Whelan, Sandra Whelan, and VR developer Drash. As of Feb. 12 it had reached €6,860 out of the €30,000 goal.
Whelan said in an interview that he would love to work with NASA on VR projects, but that contacting them has been difficult, especially because his company is based in Ireland. “We have been told that NASA only work with outside contractors when they want something built for themselves,” he said.
That hasn’t stopped him from planning other educational VR experiences. One of the next projects that Immersive VR Education has in the works is an earthquake simulator. “You control the intensity of the tremors while watching the city around you being levelled,” Whelan said.
“We are also going to be announcing some very intuitive VR Education software in the coming months,” he said.
Whelan is a big supporter of virtual reality in education, citing the idea that students learn better by doing than by seeing. The long-term goal for Immersive VR Education is to pilot VR programs in schools in Ireland, letting children experience historic events with a 360 degree view.
VR brings an emotional impact to education, Whelan said. “No other media allows you to be completely immersed, and this allows us to create some very interesting experiences.”
He was inspired in part by a VR demo called “World of Comenius” by developer Frooxius, which takes viewers on a virtual tour of the human blood stream from the inside. “If you were to describe this using a standard text book the typical student would not feel engaged reading it, and if a subject matter doesn’t excite them then this will be reflected in their final test scores,” Whelan said. “We purposely built the Apollo 11 experience to have a high impact on your emotional state so you will retain facts easier.”
The Apollo 11 experience was built by Drash using the Unity game engine. Whelan provided the sound design, video editing, and scripting.
The campaign ends on March 14, with delivery of the full-length VR experience expected in July.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, Virtual reality