Museum’s new exhibit on virtual reality ‘makes the science seem kind of magical’

The sight of an enormous blue whale swimming near a sunken vessel that looks close enough to touch is a virtual reality experience that headset-wearing visitors encounter in “Reinventing Reality,” an exhibit that will open Saturday at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

The 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibit for ages 7 and up allows the virtual world to be experienced in four six-minute, full-body virtual environments, such as the ocean experience, and explains the science behind it through 15 hands-on displays. .

“After a long year of not being able to get out and do things, having something new to touch and play is wonderful,” said Matt Dempsey, there with 4-year-old son Nathan.

“We are very excited about this exhibit because of its very highly interactive nature,” said Marisa Wigglesworth, the museum’s president. “We really break down what’s happening in the experience, and you will leave the exhibit with a much stronger understanding than when you walked in.”

This is the fourth tour stop for the exhibit, produced by Virtual Science Center in San Jose, Calif.

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“Our nonprofit is really interested in getting kids into STEM careers, especially underrepresented audiences,” said Meghan Lee, the center’s co-founder and executive director who has a background in design and museum exhibits. “The show is designed to be really engaging to girls and is bilingual in English and Spanish.”

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The museum reopened its second floor, which includes the world premiere of the mummy exhibit that has been extended to Oct. 18 after being shuttered five weeks into its run.

Visitors are able to see their bodies mapped out as a 3D cloud of dots, experience the illusion of their arms growing into a virtual body and learn about the various technologies, such as cameras, sensors and accelerometers, that enable mobility and immersion in the virtual. world.

The old-fashioned, stereoscopic 3-D View Master, which debuted in the 1930s, is used in demonstrating how the virtual reality headset also uses two screens in a similar way.

“We use VR as the hook, but it’s really about learning science,” Lee said.

Dashawn Dean, a sixth-grader at Charles R. Drew Science Magnet School, got a chance to check out the exhibit with classmates on Tuesday. He was already familiar with the technology because he has a virtual reality headset at home.

“It’s a place where you can come and experience life like you’ve never seen before,” Dashawn said of the exhibit. “The science museum is also a great place to learn about historic events and other stuff in the history of science.”

Meghan Lee, executive director of the Virtual Science Center, gives a tour of the “Reinventing Reality” exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Job fields that use or create virtual reality are presented at individual video stations, demonstrating the emerging technology’s application for entertainment, medical training, spacecraft design and journalism.

“VR seems magical and impossible, but I think the technology is actually really understandable,” Lee said. “That makes the science seem kind of magical.”

While virtual technology and its future impact on society has raised social concerns, the exhibit focuses solely on the science and the experience.

“The exhibit doesn’t get into the broader social conversations or implications,” Wigglesworth said. “What is true is this technology is really becoming pervasive in how many of us experience the world. The opportunity to understand it a little more can be a benefit to everyone.”

The “Reinventing Reality” exhibit will run through June 18. Tickets are $23-$26, $6 for museum members. For more information, go to

Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He’s also a former arts editor at The News.


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