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Smithsonian AR experience puts visitors in a 3D orca pod

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History‘s new AR experience immerses visitors in a holographic orca pod.

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History critical distance orca experience

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is launching an augmented reality (AR) experience that highlights the connection between people, orcas and the ocean.

Critical Distance, opening on September 29 at the Smithsonian museum, immerses visitors in a holographic pod of orcas struggling to survive in the Pacific Ocean’s Salish Sea.

Visitors will experience how the endangered orca pod, including 6-year-old Kiki, overcomes marine noise pollution and vessel disturbances to hunt for food and survive.

Critical Distance opens September 29

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History critical distance orca experience

“Marine animals face unique challenges today and humans are responsible for many, if not most, of those challenges,” said John Ososky, the museum’s collections manager of marine mammals.

“It’s time for us to recognize our connection to these animals and the ocean at large. Doing so is the first step for effective marine conservation and management.”

Critical Distance was produced by Vision3, Vulcan Productions and Microsoft. It was written by Amy Zimmerman and is narrated by Jamie Margolin, an American climate justice activist.

Before putting on mixed reality (MR) headsets and entering Critical Distance, guests will meet the orcas and learn about their habitat. Afterwards, guests will be encouraged to support marine conservation.

AR at National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History critical distance orca experience

Alongside the experience, the National Museum of Natural History has developed hands-on activities to educate visitors about southern resident orcas’ family structure, conservation and biology.

Critical Distance debuted earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. The attraction opens on September 29 and will be at the museum for a nine-month installation.

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents appointed an advisory council with 25 members for the new Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.

“As someone who helped bring a museum to life on the National Mall, I know firsthand how indispensable an advisory board is,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch.

Images: Smithsonian

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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