TACOMA, Wash. — One tour of the International Space Station is not enough, even if you do the tour in virtual reality.
I found that out when I explored “The Infinite,” a cleverly conceived VR presentation that draws upon more than 250 hours’ worth of 3-D video shot aboard (and outside) the space station over the course of nearly three years.
After months-long runs in Montreal and Houston, the show … or exhibit … or whatever you want to call it … landed at the Tacoma Armory late last month and is open to visitors through July 31.
The best way to describe “The Infinite” is to call it an immersive experience — an entertainment genre of relatively recent vintage that would also include the immersive Van Gogh exhibits that are making their way around the world. (One such exhibit recently wrapped up its Tacoma run, and another is still playing in Seattle.)
Even by the standards of immersive experience, “The Infinite” is in a class by itself.
“People don’t necessarily realize that this is the largest virtual-reality experience that has ever been created, in terms of size and in terms of capacity of people,” Felix Lajeunesse, co-founder of Felix & Paul Studios and chief creative officer for “The Infinite,” told me after my first encounter with the experience. “We can have up to 150 people sharing that collective experience at the same time, walking inside a 7,000-square-foot open space.’
So what do they experience?
Imagine putting on a VR headset, walking through outer space with the Northern Lights above you, and floating right through the hull of the ISS to peek in on what the astronauts are doing. You might be gathering with the crew around their makeshift dinner table for a birthday party, or watching them get ready for a spacewalk, or looking over their shoulders as they gaze through the station’s giant picture window while the Earth spins below.
You’re not just watching a movie. It’s as if you’re in the movie.