Installation Will Serve as a Preview To Learning in the Metaverse With Pioneering Immersive Technology Bringing Rarely Seen Archival Materials to Life
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.
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 can 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 p.m. 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, an 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’s Digitization Program office, which uses cutting-edge technologies to enhance the access, use and impact of Smithsonian collections.
“FUTURES” is the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future and temporarily reopens its oldest museum for the first time in nearly two decades. The part-exhibition, part-festival, designed by award-winning architecture firm Rockwell Group, celebrates the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary with more than 150 awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes and installations that fuse art, technology, design and history to help visitors imagine many possible futures on the horizon.
On view through July 6, “FUTURES” is open every day except Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free, and no timed tickets are currently required. For more information and to plan a visit, the public can go to aib.si.edu.
“FUTURES” is made possible by a select group of sponsors and supporters: Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, Bell Textron Inc., Jacqueline B. Mars, John and Adrienne Mars, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, David M. Rubenstein, and SoftBank Group. Major support is also provided by the Annenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kevin S. Bright and Claudia W. Bright, and Robert Kogod. Additional funding is provided by Accenture, John Brock III, Events DC, First Solar, Ford Motor Company, Wendy Dayton, Charlie and Nancy Hogan, the Suzanne Nora Johnson and David Johnson Foundation, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, MedWand Solutions and Oracle.
About the Arts and Industries Building
The Arts and Industries Building (AIB) is a home for the future-curious. The Smithsonian’s second-oldest building opened in 1881 as America’s first National Museum, an architectural icon in the heart of the National Mall. Its soaring halls introduced millions to wonders about to change the world—Edison’s lightbulb, the first telephone, Apollo rockets. Dubbed “Palace of Wonders” and “Mother of Museums,” AIB incubated new Smithsonian museums for over 120 years before finally closing to the public in 2004. “FUTURES” is a milestone first step in the long-term plan to renovate and permanently reopen this landmark space. For more information, visit aib.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.