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Virtual Reality And The Future Of Museum Tours: Using Oculus Rift To Dream With Disney And Dalí

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What's it like to be inside a painting? Thanks to the magic of virtual reality, we can actually experience art.

So far, a lot of the press coverage around virtual reality has revolved around video games. But the core experience of virtual reality has many more applications than just gaming. Gaming, rather, is just the tip of the iceberg.

The wonder of virtual reality is that we can be in two places at once. We can be sitting at our desks while walking along the Great Wall of China during a lunch break at the office. To be be completely immersed in one of those places is the ultimate beauty of VR.

Now, instead of just plainly staring at a painting, we can actually be in one. In a futuristic exhibition at the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, an innovative partnership between the museum and Disney is taking museum-going to the next level.

According to the Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt Disney and Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí had a very special bond where both actually created an unfinished work of art together, a short animated film called "Destino." Nonetheless, the friendship between the two continued well into their lifetimes.

To honor that friendship, Disney brought its virtual reality tech to the Dalí Museum in an exhibition called "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination." Museum-goers won't forego the traditional walkathon through the museum.

The more immersive virtual reality experience comes after visitors have actually set their eyes on Dalí's actual paintings, sketches, correspondence and photos with Walt Disney. After that, they put on VR headsets and step into a completely different world.

This world, dubbed "Dreams of Dalí," transports museum patrons inside Dalí's "Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's 'Angelus,'" which he painted in 1935. In the painting there are two towering figures made of stone placed in a barren landscape beneath a sulky sky.

"'Disney and Dalí' heralds a new era in art exhibitions ... Visitors can expect a multi-sensory environment of moving image, soundscapes, and the transformative aura of exquisite individual paintings. Disney and Dalí broke new ground as artists - the Walt Disney Family Museum and The Dalí will deliver a brave new world of experience," says Dalí Museum Executive Director, Hank Hine.

Using Oculus Rift headsets, viewers can feel like they're moving in the painting itself as other visuals from Dalí's works like elephants, birds, ants and even an image of Alice Cooper appear before their eyes.

"You actually have a three-dimensional feeling that you're inside a painting ... It's actually like there are objects closer and further away and you're walking amidst them. It's a vulnerable feeling you give yourself up to. It's not like anything you've ever felt before," says Jeff Goodby, a spokesperson for the agency behind the one-of-a-kind VR experience.

This isn't the first time virtual reality has been used with Dalí's works to offer a different kind of museum-going experience. Besides Disney, Dalí also had deep relationships with other artists like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. Those previous exhibitions also made use of new technologies, and this one in partnership with Disney is expected to bring even more foot traffic back to museums.

For those who won't be making any road trips down south to Florida anytime soon, Disney and the Dalí Museum have made the VR video available online. The video below allows for a 360-degree view of Dalí's "Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's 'Angelus'" but without the immersive experience that only the Oculus Rift can provide for now.

Unfortunately, comments on the video seem to suggest that the neither the iPhone nor Oculus Rift development kits work on it. For the best experience at home, the VR content is best viewed using an Android device using Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.

Photo: Leonard Lin | Flickr

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