I Experienced Zero Gravity with Interstellar and an Oculus Rift, and So Can You

By Gerald Lynch on at

Unless you've got a couple of hundred grand gathering dust in a bank vault somewhere (or happen to be an astronaut, naturally) you're unlikely ever to experience the feeling of weightlessness brought on by a zero-gravity environment. But that's not to say we can't at least attempt to simulate it here on Earth -- and it won't even take a parabolic flight to do so, just a virtual reality headset instead.

To mark the upcoming release of Interstellar, The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's wormhole-wandering sci-fi flick, Warner Bros. Pictures has partnered with IMAX and developers Thinkingbox to create an interactive, virtual reality experience to help promote the film. I gave it a try earlier today and, for a few brief moments, I genuinely felt as if I was weightless.

Making use of an Oculus Rift DK2 headset and a custom-built chair that rises and falls in time with the on-rails three-or-so minute demo, the Interstellar VR experience has you guided around the interior of the movie's super-cool Endurance space craft. With full head tracking support (including depth as you move your head forward) and some neat sound effects, there's a real sense of place as you explore the eerie, sterile ship.

Not having full control over a virtual reality experience usually breaks it, but in a strange way it actually enhances the Interstellar VR attraction. As you hear the ship's onboard computer alert you that gravity is about to be switched off, and as the motorised chair drops you a few inches (before gently rising again), I had the same sensation of helplessness that I imagine all first-time zero-g 'ers go through. Not being able to right myself as the visuals slowly began to spin was likely very close to the feeling of disconnect that weightlessness initially puts on a space traveller. Aside from a few immersion breaking moments where I wasn't so sure my body would be able to float cleanly through some tight tunnel spaces (I'm a gangly-limbed fellow), it was a disorientatingly convincing few minutes -- right down to the floating pens.

But don't take my word for it -- you can try it out for yourself. The Oculus Rift Interstellar experience is available for all to try (on a first-come, first-served basis) at London's BFI IMAX on Friday October 24th, between 11am and 9pm.

Those heading down to the MCM Comic Con show at the Excel Centre in London this weekend (Friday 24th October to Sunday 26th October) will also be able to try the rig out, with a double of the IMAX set-up at its own booth at the geek Valhalla.

Interstellar hits cinemas on November 7th.