'First Life' Virtual Reality Doc Debuts at London's Natural History Museum

'First Life' Virtual Reality Documentary at London's Natural History Museum still - P 2015
Courtesy of Natural History Museum, London

Viewers can go on a fascinating exploration of the sea floor and its inhabitants, 540 million years ago, via a new virtual reality presentation, narrated by David Attenborough, which premiered on Thursday at London’s Natural History Museum and opens on Friday.

David Attenborough’s First Life will be presented by the museum with partners Samsung, which is providing Samsung VR Gear headsets with Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphones to deliver the experience, and Atlantic Productions and its VR studio Alchemy VR, which produced the 15-minute CG experience.

At the museum, where First Life is currently scheduled to run for three months, guests will enter the Attenborough Studio where a short introductory video is played. Then guests will put on the Samsung VR headsets and view the 360-degree program, which allows them to float across the ocean floor and view a collection of prehistoric CG creatures. The theater seats 30 per program, and tickets are required. They cost $10.35 (£6.50) for adults and $7.16 (£4.50) for members and patrons.

Billing the new experience as "the first time VR has been used as a significant part of a museum project," museum director Michael Dixon said VR "can show us places we cannot otherwise visit. ... This is a compelling example of how technology can revolutionize how we experience museums."

VR is getting plenty of attention this week at gaming confab E3, but Atlantic Productions' CEO Anthony Geffen is among those who see great promise for narrative journeys, including documentary-type content for museums. 

He told The Hollywood Reporter that he's in discussions with museums around the world about creating additional museum VR programs. "It's all about the content," he asserted of what's needed to make VR a success. Among his company's current VR projects is a Great Barrier Reef dive, which will be narrated by Attenborough.

Attenborough, who was on hand for Thursday's premiere, said of VR: "This is another advance in communications that can take you anywhere geographically but also in time. There is an infinity of experiences."

Andy Griffiths, president of Samsung U.K. & Ireland, added that his company believes "technology should contribute to lifelong learning to make it more accessible."