For the first time in a French museum, the National Museum of Natural History is dedicating a permanent room to virtual reality. The Cabinet of Virtual Reality is located on the third floor of the Gallery of Evolution. Its programme schedule begins with an experience very much in keeping with the Gallery’s permanent exhibition: Journey into the heart of Evolution. Later, a catalogue comprised of several different experiences will be proposed, with a different programme for each session. This will be changed and updated throughout the seasons and in keeping with the museum's events and features.
Using digital technology to facilitate the circulation of knowledge
This new area offers a unique experience, in which virtual reality becomes an educational tool to promote scientific knowledge, combining emotion with discovery. With this new feature, the museum is clearly demonstrating its wish to innovate and to embrace new media solutions, in keeping with its aim of disseminating knowledge to as many people as possible. The Cabinet of Virtual Reality is a contemporary, comfortable, warm and friendly area for discovery, forming a natural continuation of the museum area.
The Cabinet of Virtual Reality includes five VR stations, each equipped with a latest-generation HTC Vive virtual reality system. As a result, five participants can enjoy the experience simultaneously, possibly accompanied by a person who can see what the user is seeing by means of a video screen. A tactile mat on the floor makes it possible to limit and mark out the area in which the user must remain in order to enjoy the best possible experience. The project is compatible with the objectives of sustainable development thanks to the choice of environmentally friendly materials (wood, linoleum) and low energy LED lighting, in addition to optimal use of existing resources. To further enhance the sense of total immersion in this environment for visitors, the Cabinet is soundproofed against noise from the Gallery and features dynamic lighting which accompanies users in their journey from the real world to the virtual world and back. This area is designed to be evolutive, in order to adapt it to different types of experiences (contemplative, interactive, seated, standing, moving, etc.) and to rapidly changing technology.
The VR sessions
Visitors are invited to enjoy a total and fully coherent experience from the waiting area through to the exit. Ten minutes before the session begins, they gather in the waiting area, where they are greeted by a member of staff. The atmosphere as they enter the room is warm and friendly, with amber lighting and a glittering mosaic ceiling. The staff member briefs the participants on how to use the headset and controllers, before helping them to put on their equipment. The light gradually becomes focused on the VR stations while the overall lighting is dimmed. The session begins. The lights then morph into blue shades and the partitions become iridescent with the soft lighting. At the end of the virtual reality session, the users find themselves plunged into semi-darkness. Then the ceiling lights up and the lights intensify, accompanying them in their "return to reality". The staff member accompanies the group to the exit before welcoming the next group.
Journey into the heart of Evolution : trailer
Journey into the heart of Evolution - trailer