Does traveling back in time and visiting an old Florida fort sound intriguing?
One year ago we installed a virtual reality experience at IMAG History & Science Center (formerly the Imaginarium Science Center) in Downtown Fort Myers. Utilizing the latest in VR technology, we created a virtual world where visitors could learn more about the story of Fort Myers. Visitors can strap on an Oculus Rift headset and travel back in time and visit the U.S. Army fort that gave the City of Fort Myers its name. The exhibit lets visitors move around the old fort and its various buildings. You can even touch things and interact with the virtual world.
Fast-forward to one year later. We followed up with IMAG to learn more about the VR installation, specifically any challenges that they’ve encountered and any feedback that they’ve had in the past year. Check out the Q&A with Matthew Johnson below:
Q&A with Matthew Johnson – Executive Director at IMAG
On average, how many users actively engage with the virtual reality experience per day at IMAG?
We open the experience for 15 minutes every hour. The average would be 15/hour or 90/day. During our busy periods we regularly extend the time to 30min./hr. so would have twice the users.
Do you have people that travel to IMAG just for the VR experience?
I do not have data to support a yes answer. But the VR has been the feature of the majority of our advertising since we open it, so I would assume that it plays a large role in the decision to visit.
Have you received any feedback and/or challenges with the VR experience? If so, can you share that with us?
The feedback has been very positive. We have seen that age is not a determining factor on how the experience is rated. Children, adults, and seniors have all given generally positive feedback. Our challenges have all been related to the technology and the inevitable bugs that turn up. Glitches, freeze-ups, equipment malfunctions are common but are generally fixed with a system reset. We had issue with sound due to the quality of the Oculus headset speakers but corrected it with an external speaker system. We have replaced some equipment due to malfunction or damage, but to be honest it has happened less than we anticipated.
Would you say the VR experience has been a great addition to IMAG and has there been a return on investment?
Absolutely, the VR experience is a featured exhibit at IMAG and is one of our top performing experiences. I do not have data specifically on ROI – we do not charge extra – but can say that it has been a contributing factor to attendance and revenue increases we have realized over the last year.
In your own words, how has VR transformed the IMAG experience?
The VR experience at IMAG has enabled us to further our mission of combining STEM and history education in a uniquely direct way. It has allowed us to engage a younger audience in learning the SWFL story while introducing a new learning experience to older generations.
The Future of VR in Museums & Science Centers
More and more museums are incorporating virtual reality technology into some of their interactive exhibits to promote and encourage engagement. This use of VR is also a prime example of how using the latest technology can keep museums and science centers fresh and relevant. As you can see in the Q&A above, this specific installation has been a success and has contributed to attendance and revenue increases over the last year.
If you are interested in seeing the VR exhibit or learning more about IMAG, you can visit them online here.