It was bound to happen eventually — the virtual safari. The ability to kick back in your own living room with a pair of VR goggles pulled down over your face and cruise the African bush in search of big game.
But it just so happens that the first African game park to plug into the futuristic entertainment technology is Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. Home to the Elewana Collection’s Lewa Safari Camp, the conservancy has partnered with Virry VR to launch a virtual reality safari on Sony PlayStation VR in the US and Europe.
The experience allows users to virtually interact with elephants, lions, rhinos, hyenas and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Everything was filmed on location at Lewa in north-central Kenya.
“The footage from Virry VR is the most stunning nature scenes I have ever seen in any medium,” says Jeremy Bailenson of The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University and one of the early testers of the Lewa VR experience.
“Seeing a big rhino, in its natural home, from the perspective of a mud puddle inches away, or having a lion literally lick my face to test if I am edible, were among the coolest things I have done in VR to date. I predict this project will be a huge success in motivating people to learn more about nature and ecosystems.”
The Lewa VR adventure features three modes:
Live-Action Interactive Experiences – Players can tempt a lion with meat, feed an elephant, lure a zebra, or share a mud bath with a rhino.
Immersive Relaxation Experiences – Players revel and relax in the soothing sights and sounds of a beautiful African river.
Live-Streaming Experiences – With a donation to Lewa Conservancy, players can access live cameras that render a live look at the African savannah.
“We hope it ignites a passion for wildlife, an understanding of the plight of endangered species while giving everyone an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be amidst these majestic creatures,” says Virry CEO Mike Watson.
“Lewa and its western neighbor Borana Conservancy protect some of the world’s most threatened species, including 14% of Kenya’s rhinos, close to 400 migratory elephants, more than 300 Grevy’s zebras, 44 lions and a host of other iconic African species.”
Virry VR is available exclusively at the PlayStation Store in the “Experience” section. Future releases on Lewa will include even more animals and immersive experiences.