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Hands on with The Apollo 11 VR Experience Demo

What happens when you combine history, storytelling and virtual reality? You get the Apollo 11 VR Experience.

There’s a magical moment during The Apollo 11 VR Experience, when after a lengthy and violent launch, the Saturn V rocket finally enters the depths of space. As the capsule begins to settle, blinding sunlight floods the capsule as the clouds below give way to a blanket of stars. Then the booster rockets are released, and all goes silent before a pencil gently floats by in zero gravity. That’s when the moon finally comes into view through a small port hole. It’s a spine-tingling moment; and one that could only be achieved using the power of virtual reality. You can jump to the 5:40 mark in the video above to watch it happen.

Launched just a couple of days ago as a Kickstarter campaign, The Apollo 11 VR Experience is a collaboration between the team at virtualrealityreviewer.com, and VR developer Drash; who released the amazing Titans of Space for both the Oculus Rift DK1 and DK2 headsets during 2014. It promises to recreate the Saturn V rocket, Command Module, Lunar Lander, then let players experience the real-life events through accurate recreations and scripting. Archive footage and audio will also be used to narrate events and educate users about the historical events and facts from these momentous events. A demo was released to give Kickstarter backers a taste of what to expect, with early builds of the launch pad and rocket launch available to experience.

Things don’t start off well, however. The demo begins in a wooden room, as President John F Kennedy’s famous Moon speech is played in full on a flat screen television. The scale is off, giving the impression of sitting in a giant room; there are no windows, doors or detailing, and the lighting is flat. Thankfully, a key tap or button press on the Xbox controller skips this scene and takes the player to a staggering recreation of the Saturn V rocket as it sits on the launch pad awaiting take off. As the camera slowly pans downwards to the base of the rocket, there’s a real sense of overwhelming scale and size. The rocket and launch pad almost looks photorealistic, with fantastic detailing and model work; and using satellite imagery the surrounding Florida landscape stretches out as far as the eye can see. Before long, the scene fades to a first person view as the user is whisked up an elevator alongside Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. They’re both static models, but it’s a nice moment that prepares the player for the up-coming launch.

As I described at the start of this preview, the virtual rocket launch is the centerpiece of the demo. Sitting strapped into the Saturn V rocket is a fantastic experience. Look to your right and you’ll notice your fellow astronauts sitting alongside you, and although the capsule is short of polygonal detail, the texture work is crisp; and if you look close enough you’ll notice that the dials are animated and correspond to the audio and animation. As the rocket launches into space you’ll genuinely get goosebumps as a pencil floats by in front of the window.

If we have any complaints it’s with the music, which although is timed perfectly and fits the mood of the experience, can sometimes drown out sound effects and become overbearing. It works brilliantly when the Apollo rocket first enters space, but removing it altogether during the initial launch would boost the realism and add tension to the scene.

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, there are multiple pledge rewards for the amount you’re willing to offer. €10 gets you a copy of the experience when it’s complete, whilst €15 also gets you into the beta. For €80 you can get a t-shirt and name in the credits, €150 will see a Polaroid photo of yours placed onto the virtual moon, and if you have €2,000 or more to pledge, then you can also include an audio message along with the photo and have a Skype chat with the development team.

This is an admiral Kickstarter campaign, merging education, history, storytelling and attention to detail to recreate one of the most important events in the history of mankind. It firmly places the viewer within the moment, and gives them the opportunity to feel a part of history; and even though it’s a non-interactive experience, it’s immersive, impressive and thoroughly educational. This is the kind of experience that would only work in virtual reality, and is definitely worth backing. You can help to team achieve their target goal of €30,000 by hitting the link below.

The Apollo 11 Virtual Reality Experience Kickstarter page

  • vreducation

    Hi Great write up. You missed the Moon section at the end of the speech. You get to float in space and see the command module. Glad you liked the rest of it.

  • quagdarr

    Trust me its a cool experience!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgQu3NXKgSY