The BBC launched a critically-acclaimed virtual reality spacewalk on Thursday, and it’s got the seal of approval from British astronaut Tim Peake. Home - a VR Spacewalk sees users float 250 miles above the Earth’s surface in a headset simulation. It’s all part of the new “VR Hub” initiative, which will see a specialized studio producing a small number of high-quality pieces as part of a major push into virtual reality content.
The experience, which is available for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, debuted last year. Inspired by Peake’s own journeys into space, Home tasks explorers with making a repair outside the International Space Station, a feat just 217 people have experienced in real life. During the mission, disaster strikes, and users have to act fast. The experience has received a number of awards, including the Cannes Lion.
“Exploring space is something that motivates a lot of young people to enter careers in science and technology,” says Peake, who tried the experience for himself. “This is a really exciting time because the new generation will have unprecedented opportunities to really fly into space. The Home Virtual Reality experience brings that opportunity even closer, in a very authentic and accessible way. I hope that having this chance to engage in such a realistic spacewalk experience will help inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.”
It’s not the first experience the BBC has made available to the public. We Wait documents interviews with migrants, Easter Rising for Rift and Gear VR chronicles one man’s memories of the 1916 events, and The Turning Forest for Daydream and Gear VR is an interactive fairytale with spatial sound.
With Home’s simultaneous launch alongside the VR Hub, though, it seems Peake’s astro-journey may be the lift-off the BBC needs to create more short pieces of VR content.
“In the future, we’ll be looking to use the lessons we’ve learned in making fantastic pieces of content like this to develop even more impressive, immersive and inspiring experiences for audiences,” says Zillah Watson, head of content commissioning for the VR Hub.
Watch a 360-degree video of astronaut Helen Sharman trying out Home here: