Walking in Mandela’s virtual shoes

The Oculus Go doesn’t allow you to walk around, but — with a remote — you can click and move around the space. (Gemma Ritchie/M&G)

The Oculus Go doesn’t allow you to walk around, but — with a remote — you can click and move around the space. (Gemma Ritchie/M&G)

Often a teacher will ask a class to imagine they are at a point in history. But, unless a learner has the chance to go to a historical site, or visit the museum, most of the learning is limited to bullet points on a page.

But what if it wasn’t?

In partnership with US based education programme VictoryVR, Gear Brain, and Liliesleaf Farm, management consulting firm IQ business has programmed a Nelson Mandela journey in celebration of the former president’s centennial birthday.

At the journey’s launch on Tuesday, Adi Stephan, the head of education at IQ business, told reporters that he wants people to understand what it was like to be in Mandela’s shoes”.

“We wanted it to be more than just words,” Stephan said.

The journey begins in a museum. The space is wide, filled with light and objects that a player can interact with. After following several instructions, one proceeds to Mandela’s childhood home, where a player can interact with the objects in his bedroom.

The game has you move from his room to the hills of Qunu, where a 360 degree camera allows you to experience the landscape both visually and audibly. The journey proceeds to take you to Mandela’s residence in Alexandra where you can explore his kitchen to a room on Liliesleaf farm.

The Oculus Go doesn’t allow you to walk around, but — with a remote — you can click and move around the space. The headset, however, does allow you to look behind, above, below and on either side of you.

Each experience has been crafted from photographs. From the radio in Mandela’s kitchen that plays a news bulletin from the day in 1950 to Mandela’s dompass that was scanned from archives and reproduced within the journey with the use of game development platform Unity.

It is an immersive experience, as a player you can experience Mandela’s life in half-an-hour, including the 27 seconds of claustrophobia in Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island.

Stephan believes that the Oculus Go will be used more as the technology becomes cheaper and people realise the value of the programme.

The headset was released to the public in May this year, and consumer analysts believe that it will be one of the most popular Christmas presents this year.

Stephan hopes that the journey can be used in the classroom, and he hopes that his conversations with the department of education and private school groups will prove fruitful.

On July 18, the 30-minute journey will be available around the world for $1.99. In order to experience the journey, you will need virtual reality headset Oculus Go which goes for R6 500 on Takealot.com.

The Mandela journey will become part of a collection of several learning programmes provided by VictoryVR. To date, Victory VR has created learning programmes in the physics and biology fields. Stephan hopes that South African schools will see the benefits of virtual reality learning.

The Mandela journey is IQ Business’s first programme designed for the Oculus Go. The group’s previous education programmes have revolved around augmented reality.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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