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A new Bay Area attraction will take you on a VR adventure in is such

Paul Fawkes will observe Ryoji Ikeda’s audiovisual installation “The Universe Within the Universe” during the “Space Explorers: The Infinite” immersive experience at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion on Thursday, October 13th. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

Over the years, I have asked different groups of people the same question. If you could fly to the moon, would you do so for roughly the same cost and level of effort as a trip to Antarctica today?

For me, it’s overwhelmingly yes. That’s why I’m surprised how few people are enthusiastic across different demographics.

“Don’t you want to see the Earth from space? To experience weightlessness?” But most are not persuaded. Some consider it too dangerous. Others do not want to leave Earth.

Space Explorers: The Infinite—a new virtual reality experience at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion—may change their minds. With over 250 hours of his footage shot by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, it’s an intimate experience and a chance to eat elbow-to-elbow at their table. But it’s also vast, giving you a sense of scale and scope as you orbit the Earth, dazzled by the city below and the twinkling lights of the stars beyond.

Space Explorers: The Infinite is an immersive VR space exploration experience exploring life on the International Space Station. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

I visited the experience on Saturday 15th October with my family. At the orientation, our guide advised us not to make sudden gestures, run, shout, sit or walk backwards at the exhibition. The “lively” 11-year-old twins Didi and Gege. (Minimum age to participate is 8 years old.)

As with any new technology, there were some glitches with the headset, but the large number of employees on standby helped and it took off quickly. I was able to walk around a virtual rendering of a space station, walk through walls into space, and interact with short clips, glowing spheres lined with fascinating pieces of life, narrated by astronauts. . Spacewalking and taking care of mizuna.

I didn’t know astronauts wore socks instead of shoes on board. In an Asian home where shoes are worn at the doorstep, socks should be a perfect fit. —or look like a super-fit Best Buy clerk in a polo shirt and slacks.

Lory Hawley (right) and Dan Hawley enjoy an immersive VR space exploration experience exploring life on the International Space Station. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

The headset was surprisingly comfortable. Afterwards, when I took them off, there was a slight eye strain, similar to staring at a monitor without reading glasses, but the discomfort quickly dissipated. Those who don’t want to walk around unattended can access the footage via a tablet.

Because of his fear of heights, Gege sometimes worried that he would fall into the endless darkness. He most enjoyed the first time we put on our headsets and interacted with each other. He and Didi played rock-paper-scissors with virtual hands. He and I hugged and bound our golden hearts together.

Diddy found parts of the experience “dark and eerie”, but liked the “puzzles” of “finding spheres and touching them”.

In high school, my husband watched a documentary about the 20th anniversary of the moon landing. With her dreams of becoming an astronaut, she majored in physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He was just as excited as I was to try this virtual flight of him. “It allows people to experience things they can hardly experience in real life,” he said.

Attendees walk through ‘The Wormhole’ created by George Foch in ‘Space Explorers: The Infinite’. Immersive experience. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

In January 2019, astronauts aboard the ISS began filming the experience using cameras that capture footage in all axes and orientations. They learned how to use the cameras, donned microphones, and transmitted the low-resolution data back to Earth, where NASA cleared it before handing it on to filmmakers Felix Lajeunes and Paul Rafael.

They and their team answered astronaut questions about the technology and also discussed potential scenes for creative calls. Their aim is to capture the experience of an astronaut from the moment he arrives on the space station until he departs six months later.

VR filmmaking pushes the boundaries of storytelling.

“The Infinite” is spatially designed, allowing users to choose their own adventures as they move through the exhibits.

“You are the one who connects the dots. No one explores the same content in the same order,” says Lajeunesse.

Paul Foulkes (left) and Ed Altemus enjoy an immersive VR space exploration experience. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

The SD card that stored the master file was brought back to Earth as cargo, but there was a risk of loss or damage. “It was quite stressful,” he said. “Each time I received a bag of SD cards fresh from outer space, it felt like something sacred.”

Another VR show, Carne y Arena, also opened at Craneway. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, this film is based on the reenactment of the harrowing journey of refugees from Central America and Mexico across the desert. Participants join a caravan led by smugglers and encounter US Border Patrol.

These VR experiences are part of a growing trend in the Bay Area and beyond. At the DeYoung Museum, “Ramses the Great and the Pharaoh’s Gold” includes a virtual his tour of his two monuments: Abu Simbel and Nefertari’s Tomb.

Located in San Mateo, San Francisco, San Ramon, and Emeryville, SandboxVR lets gamers battle zombies, defend Earth from aliens, battle on the high seas, and explore other worlds.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, is betting big on VR. However, Horizon Worlds, a virtual space accessed through headsets, is reportedly far below the company’s goals for active users. Will the VR fad die or take off?

In Space Explorers: The Infinite, Amber Zertuche observes artist Ryoji Ikeda’s audiovisual installation of a black hole, The Universe within the Universe. Immersive experience. Photo: Salgu Wissmath/The Chronicle

The answer may lie in the stars.

It was awe-inspiring and moving to see the astronauts doing spacewalks. I thought about how small they are relative to space and how much they’ve been trained to get there. The earth below looked beautiful and calm.

These days, it’s a perspective we can all use.

“Space Explorer: Infinite”: Wednesday and Friday 11am-10pm. Thursday 11am-9pm. Saturday 10am-10pm. Sunday 10am-7pm. Until November. $24 to $54. Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way, Richmond.

“Carne y Arena”: Wednesday-Thursday 11am-8pm. Friday 11am-9pm. Saturday 10am-9pm. Sunday 10am-6pm. Until January 28, 2023. $30-$45. Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way, Richmond.

  • Vanessa Hua

    Vanessa Hua is the most recent author of The Forbidden City. Her column appears on Fridays in her pocketbook.