Will virtual reality change the way I see history?

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1. Step back in time

For me, experiencing a story in Virtual Reality (VR) can feel a bit like hiking a trail. As you progress past lookouts, vistas and soundscapes you can also notice your own body responding to the journey; adapting pace, breathing and pose to the circumstances.

Signposts may suggest ways of experiencing the trail, but it is up to the hiker to find their own rewards along the way.

In that light, VR makes us complicit in the unfolding of the story and by doing so it makes the past appear as present time - a sequence of events that is constantly unfolding around us. Quite the opposite of thinking about History as something that is static and buried in the past.

2. INTERACTIVE: VR and you

Click to see a breakdown of the pysical and emotional effects of VR.

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3. VR in action

Click to see a range of exciting virtual reality history experiences, with notes from their creators.

"We wanted audiences to experience the sense of wonder and psychological impact of being in close proximity to a dinosaur. We wanted viewers to feel part of the proposed reality and to fuse with it." Felix Lajeunesse, Co-founder & Creative Director

Jurassic World: Apatosaurus

Felix & Paul Studios

"Technology-wise, we wanted to create a world where people were free to explore as they wished and, ultimately, provided with a more engaged experience.” Samuel Luchini, Creative Director, GSP

Dreams of Dali

Goodby Silverstein & Partners

"Apollo 11 is the most important journey that mankind has ever embarked on and now for the first time you can see it through the eyes of those who were there." David Whelan, CEO

Apollo 11 VR

Immersive VR Education

"Using VR technology, we wanted to create new levels of connectivity to Anne, her experience in the annex, and her legacy of promoting tolerance for generations to come." Danny Abrahms, Director, Anne

Anne VR

CGO Studios

"Our experience put real Bronze Age objects into the historic context of a Bronze Age roundhouse. We wanted to see if VR can help people to better understand the ancient past. It does! I love seeing people’s reactions." Lizzie Edwards, British Museum

Bronze Age Roundhouse VR

Soluis Group Limited

“We want the user to have interactions, not just to stare around themselves but to also understand the core of the story through the actions they perform.” Oscar Raby, Director

Easter Rising Voice of a Rebel

BBC / VRTOV / Crossover Labs

“VR is not only about entertainment, it can serve as an excellent tool for addressing important social issues. It is specifically with this aspect of VR in mind that we are developing the Chernobyl VR Project.” Lukasz Mach, The Farm 51

Ther Chernobyl Project

The Farm 51

“War of Words VR combines beautiful animated illustrations and the power of spoken word. It shows the potential for taking unexpected journeys, experiencing unexpected places and rethinking many art forms.” John Durrant, Creative Director BDH

War of Words VR

BDH / BBC Arts

"Our goal is to give users the ability to go back in time to explore one of the greatest ships ever built, the Titanic. It’s really exciting to use virtual reality to let them explore it as if they were a passenger." Baptiste Greve, CEO Unimersiv

Titanic

Unimersiv Education VR

4. Relive the Easter Rising

Step into one man’s memories, into a moment that changed Irish history forever – the 1916 Easter Rising.

Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel enables users to relive the experiences of Willie McNeive and learn about a moment that changed Irish history forever: the Easter Rising of 1916. Through VR, users travel back to Dublin, and meet the 19-year-old Willie. The experience uses McNeive’s eyewitness account of events in the General Post Office – a recording of which lay undiscovered for over 30 years. Through a remarkable, and very personal insight into this key moment in European history, Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel presents an artistic journey into the memory of an ordinary man who was swept up in extraordinary events.

5. Ask the experts:

Hype, or here to stay? We asked professionals to give us their opinion on the use of virtual reality to experience history.

Jonah Hirsch, Producer, Anne & First VR films

“History goes from being a passive experience to an active one, and that makes all the difference. I believe VR will be as integrated in our lives as smart phones have become. I expect within three to five years VR will be in many, many classrooms around the globe. There will always be books and lecture halls - they just may not be in the form as we understand them today.”

Dr Christie Carson, University of London

“There is a danger in believing that these constructed worlds represent reality, rather than a simulated and controlled experience of the world made by artists and technicians.”

Glenn Gunhouse, Georgia State University

“I find that students accustomed to computer games want to do things in the virtual space, rather than just to look at what is represented in them. I feel some pressure to provide activities within a VR building, when what I really want students to do is to look at it carefully.”

Eric Wilkins, School History Teacher

"We must be careful, not to overly rely on technology in the pursuit of historical understanding. In order for students to develop their historical skills, what really matters are rigorous discussion and debate, the close analysis of texts and sources."

Maria Korolov, Technology Reporter

“How we see history will absolutely change. Instead of it being something we've learned about, as it is today, it will become something we have personally experienced.”