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VR Exhibition Radiates Visitors Aboard the International Space Station

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Most people will never be able to set foot aboard the International Space Station. But a traveling virtual reality exhibit gives visitors some idea of ​​what life is like at the orbiting research facility.

called the infinite, the exhibition invites participants to don Meta Quest 2 headsets and walk through a facsimile of the ISS, with the ability to explore a transparent virtual model of the station and activate video footage of astronauts’ lives on board.

“The idea was actually to capture what life on board the ISS was like,” said Paul Raphaël, co-founder of Félix & Paul Studios and co-founder of the infinite. “It’s really about the people who are up there.”

[Photo: Melissa Taylor Photography]

Félix & Paul from Montreal also produced Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, an Emmy-winning VR film series about life aboard the station, for which astronauts operated special VR cameras designed on board and even stationed outside the ISS. The Space Explorers crew captured over 200 hours of footage, some of which is available to attendees the infinitewhere it can be activated on demand at specific locations in the installation.

Currently on display at the Tacoma Armory in Washington State through September 5, the infinite sees around 150 visitors per hour, meaning the team behind the project also had to make sure visitors can see each other — albeit as avatars in the virtual landscape — so they don’t collide as they explore the exhibit.

[Photo: Melissa Taylor Photography]

Essentially, all the math is done by the Quest devices themselves, so visitors don’t have to carry other bulky equipment. In fact, they are less heavy than a typical laser tag game. And an ultraviolet cleaning system is designed to keep the headsets safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

[Photo: Adil Boukind]

“The public can roam freely, unencumbered except [for] the headset itself,” says Phoebe Greenberg, the infinite’s chief creative officer and founder of PHI Studio.

The exhibit saw more than 70,000 visitors in Montreal before moving to Houston, where some astronauts who… helped capture images for us to visit and relive their experiences. For some engineers and others who worked on the design and construction of the International Space Station, the exhibit provided the first time they could experience life aboard the facility as the astronauts did.

[Photo: Melissa Taylor Photography]

“This was the first time they felt like they could see the work they’ve created over time in a really informative and emotional way,” Greenberg says.

the infinite continues to evolve to make it more seamless and iron out some kinks. And new footage has been added, such as a spacewalk that hadn’t yet been filmed at the start of the Montreal run. “We learn at every level,” says Raphaël.

The exhibition, which travels from place to place, loaded on about eight trucks, will then go to Richmond, Californiain the Bay Area, where it will virtually bring a new batch of Earthbound visitors to space.

As Raphaël says, “The medium is closest to being up there.”

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