GLAMi nomination: Handley Page VR

nominated by: Phil Stuart, Preloaded, UK
institution: The Science Museum
category: Groundbreaking

Handley Page VR is London Science Museum’s first virtual reality (VR) experience, commissioned by the Museum’s Digital Lab as a piece of experimental interpretation for their newest public space, Mathematics: The Winton Gallery.

At the heart of the Zaha Hadid Architects designed gallery is the Handley Page Gugnunc, an experimental British aircraft built in 1928 and famous for design features which solved one of aeronautical engineering’s biggest challenges: landing safely! The project transports this principal object – the Handley Page aircraft – into an immersive experience capable of delivering the exhibit’s key content messages and contextualising the gallery’s design concept.

The Handley Page Gugnunc was an experimental British aircraft built in 1928, and designed to compete in a competition to test aircraft’s abilities to take off and land slowly and steeply without stalling.

The aircraft is famous for its patented slots and flaps, which allow the plane to generate lift at slow speeds, thus enabling short take offs and ultimately safer landings. It is these critical features that highlight the successful use of mathematics in the design of the aircraft, and why bringing these to life in VR is the best means to demonstrate mathematics in action. The player’s experience begins in a hangar before the plane’s engine splutters to life and the rotating propeller pulls the aircraft forward. The player is then transported into the aircraft and the skies around it, as they experience an exhibition flight which not only shows how the aircraft flies, but also how this could only be made possible through mathematics.

The user will also experience 360 degree sound and narration from the gallery’s curator Dr David Rooney, previously curator for the award-winning Codebreaker exhibitions about the life and legacy of acclaimed mathematician Alan Turing.

The project makes use of a 3D lidar scan of the Handley Page and the architect’s 3D model of the gallery. The ‘on-rails’ experience is designed to be viewed at the gallery and facilitated by gallery staff.

Capitalising on Preloaded’s VR best practices and extensive user-testing, the experience has been designed to appeal to the most motion-sensitive of audiences and distil the complex content messages into a digestible experience suitable for novices.

Only qualitative research has been conducted so far. Some highlights below:
Amazing my first VR experience, I loved it – 45 year old Female
Very good, better than Cardboard, very immersive – 21 year old male
Great way to learn about science – 20 year old Female
Much more immersive than other VR I’ve used, worked well to communicate the information – Female
More realistic than other VR experiences I have tried, I felt more included in the experience – 25 year old female

Supporting materials: 

Handley Page (visual) Case study:

Request a GearVR version (via google form):

Google Cardboard and Web VR version (via YouTube):

Video version of the experience (via Vimeo):

Preloaded case study: