The majority of people will never get the chance to see big wildlife in its natural environment. This is partly because of the cost and time it takes to get to the African bush, but also because of the significant threat that wild animals face from poachers. Indeed, wild animal populations have plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012.
But with this week’s launch of Virry VR on PlayStation VR, users are able to transport themselves onto the Kenyan Savannas, and get far more up close and personal than any tourist would be able to.
From feeding lions with slabs of juicy meat to sharing mud baths with rhinos, Virry VR provides users with unique wildlife experiences through some of the most breathtaking real life VR filming to date.
But, in addition to being a lot of fun (and somewhat addictive), there is also a seriousness to Virry VR; it’s playing a crucial role in conservation by educating a new generation of users to the habits and needs of wildlife.
All the animals that appear in Virry VR have been filmed at one of the world’s most respected conservancies – Lewa Downs, in Northern Kenya. This UNESCO heritage site is home to some of the world’s most majestic animals including elephants, rhinos, Grevy’s zebras and leopards.
This balance between entertainment and education has received widespread plaudits from both the parenting and conservation worlds. Alexander Rhodes, a board member of the elephant charity TUSK, says that Virry VR’s tech is “gripping and inspiring, taking the younger generation into the wild to learn first-hand about the importance of the natural world”.
Virry immerses players in the lives of real animals, encouraging discovery, empathy, and problem solving, all the while helping them to “better understand nature, conservation, and the world around them,” according to Virry CEO Svetlana Dragayeva.
Most VR footage is filmed using camera rigs which film at a maximum of two metres away from the action. However, Virry VR uses of a special rig allowed action to be recorded just two centimetres from the camera, with unbelievable results.
This allows users to engage directly with wild animals through interactive scenarios; in one the player is asked to shake their controller to place meat on the savannah, shortly afterwards a lion comes right up to the player and even appears to lick their face.
As you can imagine, filming is such environments proved challenging, as Dragayeva recounts. “For the lions. the team had planned to set up a camera and drop meat remotely. For safety reasons, we could not leave the vehicle. However, it wasn’t as simple as we thought; we ended up just throwing the meat out of the truck and making a quick exit.”
After four weeks of filming and setting up permanent cameras, the team were able to capture some breathtaking footage and live streams of Lewa. The footage gathered includes elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, vervet monkeys and rhino.
But it is not just animals that are included in the experience; for users who just want to relax, landscape shots of waterfalls and the vast African plains are also available.
You can enjoy this virtual safari yourself today, as Virry VR is now available on PlayStation Store.