Nelson Mandela sculpture, Howick. Picture: ISTOCK
Nelson Mandela sculpture, Howick. Picture: ISTOCK

From the hut where he grew up in Qunu to the cell on Robben Island where he was imprisoned‚ you can now immerse yourself in former president Nelson Mandela’s journey with virtual reality (VR).

Management consultancy firm IQbusiness‚ Liliesleaf‚ VictoryVR and Gear Brain created the experience for the VR headset Oculus Go.

"You can actually physically be there. You can sit down. You can look around‚" IQbusiness head of learning Adi Stephan said on Monday.

You need the Oculus Go to experience the 30-minute Nelson Mandela Virtual Reality journey that will go on sale on Tuesday on Oculus Go’s equivalent of an app store for $1.99.

The journey starts with a museum before you move onto Madiba’s childhood home in Qunu‚ where you can interact with objects in his childhood home and explore the kitchen of his room on Liliesleaf farm. Users are immersed in the 360° landscape of Qunu. The jail cell on Robben Island is where you will experience 27 seconds of deafening silence in the lonely cell.

Stephan said discussions started in April and it took four months to develop it in time for Madiba’s centenary birthday celebrations.

"There were quite a few all-nighters to get the first draft out‚" he said.

Some objects had to be custom built‚ then scanned with a handheld scanner before the data was imported into a computer and built on the Unity game development engine. Other parts were built from photographs or scanned from archives‚ such as Mandela’s pass book‚ which was required for black people to move outside designated areas.

Stephan believes VR will increasingly complement learning in the typical classroom as it engages more of the senses.

"How many people actually have the opportunity to travel and actually look at the Great Wall of China? To be able to go anywhere in the world and experience any of these types of events‚" Stephan said.

"It’s no longer bullet points in a textbook with a picture of a building that might or might not exist anymore."

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