Pretty much everything I use with my Acer WMR headset comes from Steam. The Windows Store really is a ghost town when it comes to decent, educational VR content with the exception of the Victory VR apps (article on those coming soon) and one other gem – Hold The World. This app was produced by Sky in the UK and puts the user inside London’s Natural History Museum with probably the world’s most famous natural historian and palaeontologist, Sir David Attenborough. You sit inside some of the areas of the museum that are off-limits to the public in real life as Attenborough teaches you about fossils. It’s a stunning experience and one that I included on my Top 10 of 2018 list on VR Focus. I also recorded a playthrough of the app for my YouTube channel back in January:
Attenborough, a long-time believer in the medium of VR, is volumetrically captured here to really give you the sensation that he is sat across the table from you. What’s even more impressive though is the way that the app focuses on interaction. This is not a passive lecture (though with Attenborough as the teacher I’m sure that would have still been great) instead allowing the user to interact with the fossils first-hand. You can pick them up, scale and manipulate them with the ultimate purpose being to focus on key points of interest which are then illuminated as Attenborough explains their importance to the creature. After every feature has been identified, a final sequence plays out for each fossil with it coming back to life. This either happens there in the room with you or, for the larger creatures, the room falls away to provide a larger open space for the re-animation.
Hold the Wold ticks so many boxes in terms of being an exemplary educational VR app. Students get to have a unique experience in a space that they cannot visit in reality (whether the Natural History Museum is geographically viable or not) being taught by one of the world’s leading experts in the field. It’s interactive and engaging, giving them the choice of fossils to interact with and the autonomy to examine it by hand as they wish. This kinaesthetic approach really does elevate Hold The World over many other museum-based VR experiences.
In February I got to use Hold the World with students for the first time. Our Year 4 students were learning about habitats, adaptation and other scientific themes via a new Dinosaurs topic so I offered to come and let them learn a little from Sir Attenborough. We let them choose which of the three dinosaur-themed fossils they got to interact with and after completing the chosen sequence they were provided with a reflection sheet to record their thoughts.
The experience was incredibly well-received by staff and students alike. In particular it was fantastic to watch one teacher - a life-long Attenborough enthusiast who had actually invited him to her own wedding – getting to try it for herself and sit with the legendary broadcaster.
I have just wrapped up editing some footage from these sessions which you can view below.
Hold The World is available for free via the Windows Store.
It is also available on the Oculus Store for $3.99