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David Attenborough’s ‘Hold the World’ will teach you about fossils

Why it matters to you

If you love fossils and David Attenborough's soothing voice, it might be time to buy a VR headset.

While David Attenborough’s soothing vocal tones have informed millions through traditional 2D documentaries for decades, he’s recently taken quite an interest in virtual reality. That’s set to continue with his latest project. In partnership with Sky and London’s Natural History Museum, he’ll be narrating a new experience called Hold the World, a VR application that looks to teach you about objects that you can (virtually) hold in your hands.

The Natural History Museum in London is an enormous building and institution, containing more than 80 million artifacts from Earth’s storied history. It’s very much a look-don’t-touch installation though, due to the fragility of many of the objects there. That is set to change in Hold the World, as a holographic David Attenborough tells users about items as they pick them up and get a feel for what they’re really like.

Fossils will be a major part of the experience, with Attenborough explaining what they are, how they were formed and what they can tell us about the animal they came from. However, they will form just a part of the many objects which can be virtually handled by users as part of the experience.

Hold The World is set to be developed by Factory 42, the immersive content studio that previously produced Natural History Museum projects like the Alive app, and the Giselle VR ballet experience in the Sky app. Expertise will also be drawn from newly founded Dream Reality Interactive and the documentary experts at Talesmith.

Together they will create the experience by filming Attenborough using a volumetric capture technique involving as many as 100 in-facing cameras. The environments will be created using photogrammetry to create true-to-life settings for object handling, all set in the backrooms of the Natural History Museum itself (as per Engadget).

Set to go into production later on this year, the experience will presumably be made available to the public, though in what guise isn’t yet clear. In the first promotional image for the venture, Attenborough is seen holding an Oculus Rift headset and Touch controller, though reportedly the experience will work with a variety of headsets.