Smithsonian and Meta Invite Visitors To “Walk on the Moon” in Exclusive New Virtual Reality Experience at the “FUTURES” Exhibition

The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building (AIB) and Meta Immersive Learning will debut “FUTURES x Meta: Moonwalk” May 4, a new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience that will bring visitors as close to the lunar surface as possible with today’s technologies. Inspired by the real-life experiences of Apollo astronauts, “Moonwalk” combines thousands of rarely seen archival images, 3D scans of Smithsonian collections and NASA mission audio recordings with pioneering VR technology, and it recreates the world of the moon and allows visitors to explore the lunar landscape as it has seldom been seen before.

Credit: Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries

Timed with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions, the experience will be on view exclusively at “FUTURES,” the Smithsonian’s first major exhibition about the future, through June 6. A special free public evening Thursday, May 19, “We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Panel: Future Journeys at Your Fingertips,” will take audiences on a deep dive into not only “Moonwalk” but also an undersea coral reef and augmented reality (AR) artworks, while hearing from experts shaping the future of the field.

Using a Meta Quest 2 VR headset, visitors will be able to “land on the moon” and see the lunar surface for the first time as the astronauts did, through the window of the Apollo 11 landing capsule. They can then embark on their own adventure and experience some of the most famous and heart-stopping moments of lunar exploration: listening in on conversations between Apollo astronauts and Mission Control, kicking around moon dust, watching the rover explore the landscape and being awed by lunar views before heading back to Earth.

“Moonwalk” serves as a possible preview to what learning could be like in the future metaverse, a concept for the next phase of the internet. As a shared social space, the metaverse would bridge the physical and digital worlds—allowing people to co-exist and interact—and could combine multiple 3D-digital experiences to bring history, science, art and more to life.

Researchers and filmmakers used cutting-edge photogrammetry—a way of extracting 3D information from 2D images—to stitch together more than 7,000 archival images taken by NASA missions. This was combined with inspiring, emotional and at times hilarious archival audio recordings from Apollo lunar landings and detailed 3D scans of the Apollo 11 command module from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Combined together for the first time, audiences will be able to feel like they are truly on a mission to the moon.

“The historic Arts and Industries Building was the first place most people ever saw a rock from the moon, and later the historic Apollo 11 that made that epic journey,” said Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts and Industries Building. “It’s so exciting that more than 50 years later we are able, through this collaboration with Meta, to give visitors a new groundbreaking experience of moon travel. Experiencing ‘Moonwalk’ is going to ignite future dreams of adventure and space travel in our next generation of budding scientists and space explorers.”

AIB and Meta will also be launching custom-built AR effects on Instagram to let anyone, anywhere, go on a trip through time to discover more about AIB’s unique history with space travel, examine the Apollo command module in detail and even take a “lunar” selfie” as an astronaut.

“Like space exploration, the future of learning is limitless,” said Monica Arés, head of Meta Immersive Learning. “Partnering with the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building allows us to showcase how immersive technology can transform the way we learn by exploring simulated environments. Through a combination of in-person, virtual and immersive experiences in the metaverse, we can increase access to education and help build a more connected and curious world.”

Through its Meta Immersive Learning Initiatives, Meta is working to increase access to learning through technology and develop the next generation of creators and high-quality immersive experiences to help transform the way people learn.

“We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Panel: Future Journeys at Your Fingertips” will kick off at 6:30 pm ET, in-person and online, and is free, but Registration is required. Visitors can go deep-sea diving with an oceanographer, step on the surface of the moon with an astronaut, see statues and paintings come to life, all with a group of experts exploring the possibilities of immersive learning and VR and AR.

“Moonwalk” is produced by Meta Immersive Learning Partners Meridian Treehouse, award-winning nonfiction storytelling and experiential agency specializing in multi-platform experiences that educate and entertain, Black Dot Films, an Emmy award-winning pioneer in VR storytelling and production, and Sparks , exhibit designer, and brand experience agency. The 3D-digitized scan of the Apollo 11 command module was created by the Smithsonian Digitization Program office, which uses cutting-edge technologies to enhance the access, use, and impact of Smithsonian collections.


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