VR simulator for a museum
Museum of the World Ocean in Kaliningrad, Russia
Established in 1990, it is the leading world ocean exploration history museum in Russia. Its collection of valuable relics is unique among the world’s museums.
The museum wanted to make a VR recreation of the MIR deep-sea submersible that had once helped researchers examine the wreckage of the famous RMS Titanic, and even place the Russian flag on the ocean floor, four thousand meters deep.
The weight of the submersible is 19 tons. It is part of the museum’s exposition. It is fully operational, however, it has been sealed shut and thus unavailable to the public: visitors can’t get inside, although they have always been very interested in doing so.
The client wanted museum visitors to have access to the interior of the submersible, show how deep it could go, and draw attention to the museum’s exposition. Virtual reality helped achieve all of the above.
The main challenge of our project lied in the fact that the visitors of the museum were not the only ones barred from getting inside the submersible – our VR-developers could not get as much as a peek inside the machine for reasons of preservation.
In order to develop the project, we first had to examine the blueprints, archival photos of the submersible and various sunk objects as well as interview museum workers and deep-sea divers. Thanks to their memories and expertise, we could virtually reconstruct not only the submersible itself, but also other deep-sea objects.
Another challenge we had to face was that the museum asked for maximum authenticity, while the VR developer should always consider the comfort of the end user. That is why we allowed ourselves to simplify a few things: reduced the dive-in time (from the authentic 2-3 hours to 30 seconds) and chose not to reproduce the control panel in full detail.
As a result, the entire VR underwater mission takes around 5 minutes. During this time, the player gets to read and listen to the mission brief, find the object of study, move up to it, examine it and take a photo.
The team has managed to virtually reconstruct the submersible with 3D graphics. The main thing, however, is that VR allowed to enhance the project with interactivity: let people get inside the submersible and experience all of its capabilities. Today visitors can not only see the actual MIR-1 with their own eyes, but also become its pilot and go deep underwater in virtual reality ocean.
The project combined education and entertainment: you put on a virtual reality headset and all of a sudden you find yourself inside the submersible. The player is presented with a menu where they can choose one of several missions. During the descent into the depths of the ocean the player listens to the narrator telling them about the increased geothermal activity in the region and their task to investigate the cause of the increase.
The player can navigate the ocean floor by instruments, takes a picture of it and follows further instructions. When the task is complete, he comes back to the surface listening to the narrator’s debriefing.
Aleksey Spitsyn, Head IT of the Museum of the World Ocean, says: “Thanks to Varwin involvement and expertise, we have acquired a unique interactive showpiece in the Museum of the World Ocean. This scientifically authentic VR reconstruction is hugely popular with our visitors”.
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