Virtual reality (VR) can be isolating, but some developers are working on way to make it a more social experience. In one example, some children in Washington DC have the unique opportunity to board a truly special school bus – one that drives to Mars.
Field Trip To Mars is a VR experience created by Framestore with assistance from Lockheed Martin and using Unreal Engine 4. The experience takes place on what looks like a typical yellow American school bus, but this particular school bus comes fitted with special display screen windows and 3D surround sound speakers that allow the students on board to experience a trip through the Martian landscape.
Framestore have used Unreal Engine to carefully map out every street in Washington DC, which, coupled with GPS and laser sensor technology, means that whatever route the bus takes through the city, the children will see a unique view of Mars from the windows. If the bus turns left on Earth, the bus turns left on Mars. The active rendering means that every bump and pothole can be mapped onto the Martian landscape for a more immersive experience.
The specially designed windows in the school bus have an active film that can switch from opaque to clear when electrical current is passed through, so the real world can be viewed from the windows, or it can be quickly switched to the Mars projection.
Simon Jones, Director of Unreal Engine Enterprise had this to say: “All of this means that organisations across a range of sectors are increasingly understanding how they can embed VR within their design, development and technical strategies to help them do things faster and more efficiently. So what started life as a high-end computer gaming technology has developed to become an application that accelerates innovation, drives new technology and creates limitless opportunities. Like taking children on an astonishing field trip to Mars.”
Claude Dareau, Senior Developer of Field Trip to Mars, added: “We get the kids on the bus, the screens go dark, Mars pops up and they go crazy. Just seeing their reaction was incredible. I’d only had a few hours’ sleep and was shattered. I definitely felt emotional when I saw that.”
The VR experience would be shared and take place within a regular school bus that drives a route around Washington DC, and you can watch a detailed video about the experience below.
VRFocus will continue to bring you news about VR experiences as they come in.