British Museum Virtual Reality Experience Aims to Time Travel to the Bronze Age

By James O Malley on at

Museums are great, but when we see dusty old objects in glass cases, can we really be sure that we're fully appreciating what we're looking at? That's the challenge that a new virtual reality experience at the British Museum is attempting to meet when teaching visitors about the Bronze Age.

The Museum has a long-held partnership with Samsung, which opened its "Samsung Digital Discovery Centre" (SDCC) there in 2009. This weekend, the partnership is hosting a "virtual reality weekend", and inviting members of the public to strap on a Samsung Gear VR headset and take themselves back in time to a bronze age roundhouse. Teaching the Bronze Age was added the national curriculum just last year - so now kids can look forward to the confusing experience of something being cool but simultaneously educational.

So what is the VR experience like? Earlier today, I got to give it a try.

After strapping on a headset and you're standing in front of three roundhouses - one of which has an open door. The Gear VR can be controlled using a touchpad on the right-hand side for movement, so it was simply a case of swiping in the direction that I wanted to go and tapping on the touchpad to select objects (based on what I was looking at).

Interactive objects were highlighted in blue - and upon selecting them, your field of view goes black and the object floats in space, with you able to look around it that way. As you watch, a curator narrates details on what it is you're looking at.

It was pretty clever - and does provide another way into understanding what the objects were for. It'd certainly be interesting to see it expanded as this very much felt like a tech demo, with only three objects fully accessible. Though as Lizzie Edwards who co-manages the SDCC pointed out in her opening remarks, this is essentially a test phase, with the results of the "virtual reality weekend" being fed back to the museum and Samsung for future improvements.

If you'd like to give it a go, the BM is testing it all weekend, so head on down to the museum.