You still have a chance to experience some of virtual reality’s fun and futuristic technology. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) has extended the run of “theBlu: An Underwater VR Experience” to June 18, 2017. Thanks to the generosity of NHMLA, we were able to check out the special attraction last week.
You are first led to a waiting area that is as mellow as one you would find in a spa, where you are given a personal screen to learn what to expect. If you don’t have time to watch it or are too busy photographing the cool jellyfish decor, your guide will walk you through the process once again. Once inside your private cubicle, or “pod,” you are fitted with big goggles and a headset which are attached to a cord that hangs from the ceiling. They do not tell you not to spin around and wrap the cord around your neck, but being naturally clumsy, I immediately did that.
Created by Wevr, a Venice, California-based VR studio, theBlu takes you through three underwater environments. Although they are animated, they felt real enough that I was afraid of cutting myself on the jagged metal of the sunken ship in the first scene. The only thing you can actually affect in the scene are sea anemones, whose tentacles contract and close at your touch.
Nothing is too scary, even in the third, dark environment where you use a virtual flashlight to illuminate the deep-sea fish, including an angler, our favorite. There are a few mild jump scares, but you are protected from the one scary sea creature by the enormous ribcage of the fish skeleton you are standing in. The guide was very quick to rescue me when I got myself tangled in the cord, so I’m sure if you start screaming help will arrive quickly.
The entire immersive experience only lasts six minutes, but it feels like longer. There is a monitor so you can watch your friends’ adventures, which made me want to back-seat drive, “Turn around! Look what’s behind you! Poke the anemones!”
It’s exciting to imagine all of the adventures available to people who don’t have the opportunity to deep sea dive or climb mountains. Afterwards, my husband asked, “If we had fully interactive VR technology at home, what would you be doing?”
Without a moment’s hesitation I answered, “Having sex with movie stars.”
He replied, “Yeah, and I would probably be sitting in the next room playing 3-dimensional Mario Karts.”
Advanced timed-tickets are required and can be purchased online here. Tickets are $8 for Members and $10 for Non-members (Not including museum entry). Children must be 10 years of age or older to participate, due to safety reasons and ability to follow instructions. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. While you are there, be sure to check out the Butterfly Pavilion.