Virtual reality has been seeing tremendous growth over the past year. There are new hardware launches, lots of new experiences and many of the leading VR headsets are already sold out. Virtual reality travel is becoming a thing and it is being exploited by some of the top VR travel providers as well as creators that render some of the top destinations and attractions in the world in an immersive setting.
Thanks to photogrammetry as well as high-resolution 3D scans, it is now possible to create digital reconstructions of phenomena that look almost like the real thing. Below is a look at some of the most impressive and photorealistic virtual reality travel experiences that you can try out.
The Chernobyl VR Project
Platforms: Oculus Rift, Steam and PlayStation Store
Hardware: Oculus Rift S, Valve Index, HTC Vive (Cosmos, Pro), PSVR
This immersive project transports you into the ghost town of Pripyat, the scene of the worst nuclear disaster in history. The project uses a number of techniques to capture the eerie scale of the scenery including 360-degree shots. The experience includes freely accessible environments that have been created using photogrammetric techniques such as the abandoned worker’s apartments, an empty elementary school and the ruins of a local hospital.
To create the 3D scans, the team visited the disaster zone multiple times while equipped with a Geiger counter. Capturing this experience in virtual reality is important as the structures are decaying and falling apart and will eventually disappear in a few years. The virtual reality rendition of the Chernobyl danger zone preserves the scenes and the story for posterity.
Platforms: Rift, Steam, Viveport, PSVR
Hardware: Oculus Rift (S), Valve Index, HTC Vive (Pro, Cosmos), PlayStation VR
Only a few people have ever made their way to the top of Mount Everest. The mountaineering skill and endurance required to scale to the top of the “roof of the world” is just beyond most people. With this immersive VR experience, you can now get a rough idea of what it takes and what you can expect to see when you are climbing the highest mountain in the world. In Everest VR, you will be climbing Everest using a rickety ladder over a crevasse and in a storm. You will be scrambling up through an ice wall or spending the night in freezing cold inside a tent.
The immersive experience has digitally reconstructed the surrounding Himalayan Mountains in very impressive detail. The three-dimensional experience has stitched together over 300,000 high-resolution images of the mountain range through the use of photogrammetric techniques to create a razor-sharp and realistic reproduction of Mount Everest.
Nefertari: Journey to Eternity
Platforms: Steam, Rift
Hardware: Oculus Rift (S), Valve Index, HTC VIve (Pro, Cosmos)
This immersive trip takes you into the world of Ancient Egypt and into the burial chamber of Queen Nefertari. The team has worked hard to recreate a millimeter-accurate reconstruction of this important architectural heritage that immerses you into the ancient Egyptian burial culture.
The virtual reality experience clearly brings to life the patience, dedication as well as craftsmanship that went into decorating the burial chambers of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and queens. In the immersive experience, you will even see the elevations, the finest of textures as well as the errors which are illuminated by the light of a virtual flashlight. You can even click on the frescoes and learn about their meaning. The developers of this immersive experience used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create the impressive quality image.
The Homestead delivers one of the most complex and accurate 3D replicas of an actual place. In this immersive experience, you can visit the Wallace Arts Center which is an art gallery found in the Pah Homestead in Auckland, New Zealand.
The virtual rendition clearly brings out the artist’s painting technique as well as the brush strokes. You can even see the thick acrylic paint blobs which come out in relief in virtual reality to an extent that you will almost feel like you can touch them.
Most of the artwork in The Homestead have been captured in VR and stored with an audio comment and the audio will be automatically triggered as you approach the paintings. This enables you to not only admire the paintings but also learn a thing or two about their meaning.
Platforms: Rift Store, Steam and PlayStation Store
In Titanic VR, you can immerse yourself into the claustrophobic research submarine sitting at the bottom of the ocean and explore the wreck of the legendary passenger ship all by yourself. With the help of a mini robot in virtual reality, you will be climbing through the small openings and exploring the premises of the ship.
However, unlike the other virtual reality experiences, the VR rendering was not captured from the actual scanning, photography and photogrammetric rendition of the real vessel. Instead, the vessel that you will explore in virtual reality will just be a digital reconstruction of the original. But the creators have done an excellent job. The digital reconstruction comes very close to the original wreck of the titanic.
Versailles VR is a photogrammetric project that scanned the actual Versailles Palace. The project scanned 21 rooms and approximately 36,000 square meters of the palace complex.
The rooms along with the objects contained inside them including the paintings and sculptures have been digitized via photo scanning. There are accompanying texts in the VR experience that explain the meaning and the history behind the artifacts. To create the VR rendering of the iconic palace, some 4 terabytes of data were processed and more than 15 billion pixels were generated.
The virtual tour leads the viewer through the private rooms of the French monarch via his private opera, the chapel as well as the mirror hall. With the push of the button, you can switch the experience into the night mode and explore the palace in the pale moonlight. The night experience is virtually impossible to have in real life due to palace restrictions.
In the SteamVR workshop, you can find a vast array of high-quality 3D environments that have been created by Valve as well as SteamVR hobbyist creators. Some of these are great destinations that have been rendered in quality immersive VR. To download and install these experiences, you can follow this procedure: –
- Start the Steam app and then open the destination website on your PC.
- Log in to both places
- Click on the links on the list and then click on the green “Subscribe” button. The download of the destination should begin immediately.
- Go to the SteamVR Home in your headset and open the destination experiences from there.
- There are lots of great destinations to choose from here including Gottfried Keller lookout in Switzerland, Cadillac Mountain in the US, Old Attic, Tower Bridge and South Corsica.