I went to Moon last weekend. At least as close as I ever will.
Strapped into my Oculus Rift, I was sitting in a living room, decorated in 60s style. Lava lamp on my left. Movie projector on my right. John F. Kennedy giving a speech how we didn’t choose to go to the Moon because it is easy but because it is hard.
This is how Apollo 11 VR Experience starts. In a nutshell, it’s a 15 euro short movie, lasting less than an hour. On a flat screen it would be just another documentary with too high a price tag. With VR, it was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had. VR is a frustrating technology to tell people about. Is that a gaming device? Is it for watching movies? Even if your description is thousand words, it still can’t distill the experience of seeing T-rex roaring a meter from your face or being strapped into a space rocket being blasted into space. You have to try it yourself.
During my somewhat limited VR experience I’ve climbed mountains in The Climb, shot my way through a maze of glass in Smash Hit, ventured into an amazing children’s story with Lucky’s Tale and watched a 3D movie on a giant screen in my not-that-large living room. VR is cool.
But none of these had prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions I had when I sat in Apollo 11, waiting for the CAPCOM to count down the seconds to the launch. As the rockets roared to life beneath me, I forgot all the 1st generation issues Oculus Rift still has, how silly people look with screen strapped inches from their face or how the graphics are a long way from what you can see in real life.
I was going to space. Screw everything else.
Type Apollo 11 to Google and you get 4 700 000 results. Articles. Books. Movies. The works. They tell you how it happened. But they lack that certain something. As WIRED’s Kevin Kelly put it in his Magic Leap article, Internet is a network of information. Something you can learn and know. Artificial reality gives us access to a new kind of web: network of experiences. VR doesn’t just tell the stories. It shows them in vivid detail.
Tears filled my eyes as the rockets sped me away from Mother Earth to cold space. I marveled at human technology. At the past technology how we went to Moon only 66 years after first human flight. At the present technology how I was now experiencing that amazing journey in the comfort of my own home with funny looking goggles showing me incredible things. And most importantly at the future technology, what is still around the corner. Coming sooner than we think.
It all summed up into something more than I’ve ever felt with books or movies. Neither of them is going away as they shouldn’t. Amazing books will still be written and amazing movies will still be shot. But Apollo 11 VR Experience gave me a small glimpse of VR can bring to the table and my mind just exploded with all the thrilling possibilities.
Having said all that, this article has been a fool’s errand. I tried to describe VR in words. Maybe you feel like you know how it feels but you don’t. You just have to experience it yourself.
PS. You don’t have to trust me. See what an actual Apollo astronaut thinks about it.