Immersive Histories: RAF Museum London launches permanent Dambusters VR experience

Main Image: How the RAF Dambusters VR experience might look. Photograph - All Seeing Eye

The virtual reality experience provides an authentic interactive recreation of the Dambusters’ first mission, which took place on 16 May 1943 attacking the Möhne Dam. It is part of the Arts Council’s CreativeXR programme with Digital Catapult and here developers All Seeing Eye give an overview of the experience they created with the RAF Museum, London

The Dambusters VR experience offers 360 ̊ first person views, spatialised audio and haptic feedback is used to reinforce the experience of being aboard a No. 617 Squadron Lancaster bomberduring operation Chastise.

It is an immersive location-based virtual reality installation allowing an audience to experience the famous ‘Dambusters’ mission from on board Guy Gibson’s Lancaster.

This prototype virtual reality experience transports audience members to 16/17 May 1943 and allows them to step onto a Lancaster to accurately experience the famous ‘Dambusters’ raid from a unique perspective.

Audience members will suit up in a virtual reality headset with hand trackers and haptic vest before they step onto the deck of Guy Gibson’s ‘G George’ as they arrive at the Möhne Dam and begin the attack.

The Dambusters VR experience takes place in an accurate physical set of a Lancaster bomber. Visitors are completely immersed and can reach out and touch the windows, fuselage and desk

The immersive experience surrounds the audience with a physical set which in conjunction with the virtual reality visuals and spatialised audio, allows them to feel the aircraft around them during the mission.

Intended audience

Immersive Histories is designed specifically for a captive family museum audience, aged 13 years and over. It is naturally of particular interest to military and aviation history enthusiasts. However, the experience is also of appeal to festival audiences and those exploring new kinds of narrative experiences. Although Operation Chastise is seen as a British mission, there were also crew members from Australia and Canada, so the experience would also be appropriate for museums in these territories.

All Seeing Eye was established to explore the possibilities emerging technology can bring to more traditional forms of storytelling.

“This project was developed from a desire to move past the notion of ‘do not touch’ notices in museums and to explore the human stories behind objects in their collections. Immersive Histories is a vehicle to take an audience to a place and time impossible to visit, to develop a deeper understanding of people, objects and events. The story of the ‘Dam Busters’ was selected for this prototype, but the scope of the project is not limited to this setting; we envisage the prototype as the first chapter of a series of immersive experiences realised within this system.”

Technical summary

Immersive Histories is a location-based immersive VR experience driven from a PC and Vive setup. Audience members wear a Subpac haptic vest, and HMD with hand tracking. The experience is developed in Unity. A physical set surrounds the audience, designed specifically to optimally account for the sightlines required from the Vive lighthouses to maintain a robust tracking volume.

Platform: HTC Vive

Final experience platform: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

Distribution method: Location-based (physical)

Primary production type: Real-time rendered (game-engine based) experience

This overview was first published on the CreativeXR website.