A Polish video game developer is creating a virtual reality experience where people can explore the nooks and crannies of the deserted nuclear city of Pripyat and other features of interest in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
The Farm 51, based in Gliwice, Poland, is currently working on the video game Get Even, a single/multiplayer hybrid shooter which combines computer graphics with Better Reality's state-of-the-art Thorskan environment scanning technology, so the game characters run through footage of actual places. It is slated to be released in 2016.
The game has been in production since 2013, and along the way, The Farm 51 has decided to use the HD stereoscopic 360-degree footage and aerial drone footage it collected within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to create a separate app experience that lets people explore the buildings of Pripyat in virtual reality.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded 29 years ago on 26 April 1986, releasing radioactive particles into the air that were 250 times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Within 24 hours, the 50,000-people town of Pripyat was entirely emptied of all residents, and it is one of the best examples in the world of a city that has remained stuck in time.
It is now possible for tourists to visit Pripyat and other surrounding villages within the 2,600 sq km exclusion zone for short periods of time as the isotopes released in 1986 have since decayed. Radiation levels on the tour range from 15 to several hundred micro-roentgens per hour – in order for radiation to kill, a person would have to be exposed to between 300-500 roentgens an hour.
However, The Farm 51's VR experience promises to go much further than what any day-tour to the city can provide.
"Thanks to the unusual goal of our trip to Chernobyl, we have been classified as a research team. This has granted us access to many closed-off and normally-unavailable places," The Farm 51's project manager Michal Grzesiczek said in the Chernobyl VR Project video trailer.
"The app we are developing will be created using the technologies used at Reality51 [which] entails employing photogrammetry and filming with a stereoscopic 360-degree camera. With these resources, we will be able to recreate the entirety of the Exclusion Zone with photorealistic accuracy."
According to The Farm 51's creative director Wojciech Pazdur, the VR app experience will be similar to watching a documentary, only the experience will be interactive and aiming to place the viewer right there in Pripyat, sort of like virtual tourism.
"It will be an experience similar to entering a documentary film, one in which you will be able to look around, one you will be able to interact with and, moreover, encounter the surprises we have prepared for our viewers," said Pazdur.
"Players and virtual visitors will be free to explore and engage with places that have hitherto been off limits, losing themselves in a one-of-a-kind, interactive documentary."
The Chernobyl VR Project will be released on 26 April 2016 – the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster, and it will work with Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Playstation VR and other consumer VR headsets including Google Cardboard.