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Virtual Reality: The Next Step for Zoos & Aquariums

Zoos and aquariums have provided wondrous opportunities to get closer than ever before to some of Earth’s most breath-taking creatures, becoming the bedrock of family days out for decades. With typically a small turnover in collections, a pertinent dilemma remains over how to entertain guests and educate them on conservation messages, while encouraging them to come back time after time?

Zoos and aquariums have for a long time worked to promote conservation, entertainment and education as ways of capturing imaginations, sparking new conversations and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Shark Dive is part of the Blue Ocean series to aquaria, zoos and science centres around the world.

New Technologies = New Opportunities

Technology, and virtual reality (VR) in particular, can serve a vital role in bringing guests closer than ever to creatures in their natural habitats, enhancing the standard guest experience.

Environmentally engaged technology businesses, such as Immotion Group, are working side by side with wildlife experts and Emmy award-winning filmmakers to deliver immersive and realistic VR experiences to zoos and aquariums around the world.

Immotion presents its experiences in VR on a proprietary motion platform where seat motion is synced with the VR film to give a 100% immersive experience.

What experiences are available? The beauty of VR is that we are only limited by imagination. Immotion’s latest release, for example, Shark Dive is giving people the opportunity to get within touching distance of great hammerheads and tiger sharks, and without the need to get into the water. The experience was captured by Immotion’s Emmy Award-winning director Ken Musen, with support from an expert team of marine biologists from The Bimini Shark Lab in The Bahamas. It takes guests on a subaquatic journey around Tiger Beach and, for the first time in VR, captures the 360° perspective of a great hammerhead – offering guests the chance to experience what it feels like to move and swim like a shark.

The entertaining stories and educational messages of experiences like Shark Dive (and others such as Swimming with Humpbacks) can tie in with the wider conservation messages of zoos and aquariums, many of whom promote education as a core mission.

Greg Charbeneau, Vice President and General Manager at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona said: “Part of our mission is to incorporate education and conservation with technology, and the use of the VR into our guest experience is really taking our missions and putting it all together.”


Looking Ahead...

Combining modern technologies and the offerings of bricks and mortar attractions presents new and exciting opportunities to provide unrivalled location-based experiences for visitors.

VR allows us to intimately tell the stories we vitally need to tell in a way that is engaging and exciting. From diving with sharks in The Bahamas to swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, virtual reality presents endless possibilities to expand our horizons and educate and entertain for generations to come.

This experience provides a rare glimpse and insight into the world of the tiger shark, who commonly reach lengths of 3.3-4.3 m, weighing between 385-635 kg. The largest adults can attain a length of over 7.4 m and weigh over 900kg. Due to demand for its fins and over-fishing, the tiger shark is listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Rodney Findley is the Group Commercial Director of Immotion Group Plc. Find out more about Immotion and their experiences here.


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