"Sharing my passion for the natural world is something which I have done for many years through different technologies, from the days of black-and-white TV to color, HD, 3D, 4K, and now virtual reality," says Sir David Attenborough about his VR experience "Hold the World," developed by Sky for London's Natural History Museum.
Commissioned by the Sky VR Studio and directed by Dan Smith, "Hold the World" was produced by Factory 42, in association with Dream Reality Interactive and Talesmith, and through collaboration with the Natural History Museum's digital team.
The interactive experience transports viewers the Natural History Museum, where they can get their hands on rare specimens from its collection and they go behind the scenes to explore areas usually closed to the public.
Attenborough, who was filmed by more than 100 cameras and digitally recreated as a lifelike 3D hologram for the experience, acts as a guide, imparting his knowledge on a series of rare artifacts and objects from the museum's collection, including a blue whale, a stegosaurus, a trilobite, a dragonfly, a butterfly, and a pterosaur.
The experience lasts between 20 minutes and an hour, giving participants control over their journey. When entering, viewers can choose from a number of locations in the museum, such as the Conservation Centre, the Earth Sciences Library and the Cryptogamic Herbarium. In each of the locations, Attenborough sits opposite the participant and invites them to examine and "handle" several rare specimens. And in a series of "magic moments," the objects also come "to life," giving users a chance to learn more about the history and science behind them.
Photogrammetry was used to recreate the museum itself, while Attenborough's likeness as a hologram was created with volumetric capture at Microsoft Studios in Seattle. The museum's CT scanning department then worked with museum scientists and animation teams to create a scientifically accurate model and animation for each specimen.
Professor Paul Barrett, a Natural History Museum dinosaur expert who worked on the stegosaurus model and animation says, "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. It's the first time people will actually be able to hold these objects, pull them around and make them larger and smaller.
"Our Stegosaurus is obviously a huge specimen so we can't normally pick it up and play with it. But now we can zoom in on the head and look at features of the skull and teeth, we can zoom back to look at the arrangement of the plates, we can tip the skeleton upside down and look at it from angles that we wouldn't normally be able to see.
'We can also import it into computer programs to look at the engineering of how the skeleton is put together. So it's been a really exciting development for us here, because we are also seeing it in new ways for the first time too."
"This is exactly why Sir David was so excited to get involved in Hold the World," reports Isobel Hamilton. "'The one thing that really frustrates you in a museum is when you see something really fascinating, you don't want to be separated from it by glass,' he told a Q&A panel on May 23rd. 'You want to be able to look at it and see the back of it and turn it around and so on.'
"In the VR, you can play with artifacts which in real life are so delicate even world-class scientists aren't allowed to handle them," Hamilton continues. "Even better once you're done playing with the static objects they come to life. Rarely in a museum do you get the chance to have a massive pterodactyl swoop over your head." To read the full article, click here.
"Having the opportunity to create a unique interactive experience—with Sir David Attenborough no less—has been a privilege," says John Cassy, Factory 42 CEO and executive producer of Hold the World. "We hope 'Hold the World' gives [Sky] customers a priceless opportunity—the chance to have a one-on-one tutorial about the natural world from Sir David himself!"
"'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, and I am delighted about what users can learn and discover from the Museum's treasures," Attenborough concludes.
"It really is one of the most convincing and bewitching experiences that the world of technology has yet produced."