Latest ‘Apollo 11’ demo induces chills and tears

by Ian Hamilton • October 2nd, 2015

The latest demo of Apollo 11 took the re-creation of the historic mission up a notch, giving me both chills and making my eyes well up in tears.

David Whelan at Ireland-based startup, Immersive VR Education, kickstarted the app earlier this year partnering on the project with the creator of solar system education title Titans of Space. The space exploration simulation dream team has steadily been upgrading the experience over the course of the year and releasing portions of the mission as demos to backers. You can still gain access to betas and some perks by purchasing it on the company’s website.

A video posted in August showed a dad brought to tears by the previous demo and a month before that another video showed the reaction of Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke.

The latest demo released this week begins in orbit on the dark side of the moon. The first thing I noticed were the small ridges of the moon’s surface on the horizon as the light side came into view. It’s a tiny little 3D detail only VR could make me appreciate. The demo culminates in the separation of the module that descended down to the surface with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong onboard as Michael Collins was left in orbit waiting for their return.

The demo wraps together soaring music, which Whelan said is a track by Jens Kiilstofte titled “A New Dawn”, with NASA audio clips that capture a team giving their excited “Go” commands. Whelan said he does the audio mixing himself and he really nailed this one, with instant chills for my wife and I trying the experience one after another. We felt the weight of the human achievement at that moment in 1969 in a way we never could simply reading about it or watching a video of John F. Kennedy’s speeches.

lunar lander

Titans of Space opened a lot of minds, my own included, to the idea that if the headsets just get better movement tracking with more pixels pushed into the display, then VR might actually have a chance.

After I wiped the tears from my eyes with Apollo 11 though, I was left thinking consumer VR has an experience on the way that will become a must-download for practically all owners and a showpiece for the arrival of the long-promised technology. Things can obviously change, but Whelan is hoping to ready Apollo 11 for the consumer launch of the Rift, Vive and PlayStation VR.

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