Museum of Flight teams up with Microsoft for virtual reality tours of historic airplanes
It’s not easy to crawl through the guts of a World War II bomber, but a new virtual reality project from Microsoft and Seattle’s Museum of Flight turns it into a snap on a screen.
The Aviation Pavilion Virtual Tour is actually a series of VR tours, highlighting interior views of planes ranging from the B-17F Flying Fortress and the B-29 Superfortress to Boeing’s 737 and 747 jets.
“For the first time, visitors – both on site as well as remotely – will be able to ‘step inside’ the cockpits and interiors of these carefully preserved artifacts through high-fidelity 360-degree virtual tours,” the museum says.
There are clickable screen tours that were created from scans with the Matterport 3D Camera. The interface is similar to Google Street View: Click on the vantage point you want to get to, and you’re there. You can also use arrow keys to navigate, or zoom out to see the full floor plan or “dollhouse” in a cutaway display.
There’s also a score of 360-degree panoramas captured by photographer Lyle Jansma. You can twist and turn your vantage point on a computer screen – or set the imagery into VR mode, optimized for Homido goggles (which happen to be available at the Museum of Flight’s store).
The museum’s docents and volunteers will be using Microsoft Surface Pro tablets to show off the 3-D imagery, and museumgoers can also peek through Lumia 950 smartphones equipped with VR gear.
Virtual reality has been on the Museum of Flight’s agenda for more than a year. At last November’s Space Fest, VR developers from Valve showed off a virtual reality environment from Mars, based on imagery from NASA’s Curiosity rover and adapted for the HTC Vive system.
The Valve team also put together a VR rendering of the comet currently being studied by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
“The response to the test run was overwhelmingly positive,” museum developers reported.
Now a VR rendering of the museum’s full-size space shuttle trainer is in the works. So get ready to strap on your goggles and float through the cockpit, even if your bones are too creaky to get through the hatch.
In addition to Microsoft, the museum’s partners for the Aviation Pavilion Virtual Tour include Paolo Tosolini and Tosolini Productions LLC, Lyle Jansma and Jansma Design LLC, Matterport and IntuiLab.