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The Franklin Institute brings VR to museum floor with new mobile app

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is debuting a new full suite of virtual reality experiences available through the museum?s first mobile application.

The Franklin Institue is hosting a free public launch event to raise awareness about the new program. The museum is hoping to drive foot traffic through the museum by modernizing the mobile approach to how visitors interact with museums.

"The Franklin Institute is making a strong commitment to helping advance museums digitally," said Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute. "Our mission is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology and immersive virtual reality is a way to do that like never before." 

Virtual library
The museum?s virtual reality initiative consists of a few main components.

First, The Franklin Institute is creating a library of immersive virtual reality experiences that can be accessed by visitors. The VR videos are produced around the globe and cover a wide variety of topics, including the exclusive debut of the first ever virtual reality film shot at the bottom of the ocean.

Along with this new film, other experiences supplement popular Franklin Institute mainstays such as The Giant Heart, which lets visitors walk through a massively scaled up replica of a human heart and Space Command.

Next, the museum will house its entire virtual reality library on its new mobile app ? a first for the company. The VR experiences can be viewed with a standard smartphone and The Franklin Institute will distribute free Google Cardboard viewers to make viewing the VR films easier for visitors.

The museum will also have a VR lab set up specifically to demonstrate the capabilities of VR to visitors who may be unfamiliar with the concept.

Finally, The Franklin Institute is hosting a free public demonstration and symposium on virtual reality today. Experts on VR from around the world, from institutions such as the United Nations and MIT, will be on hand to talk about the future of virtual reality.

Guests can watch a live VR sporting event, the Drexel Men?s Soccer team, as well as tour a space shuttle and watch brain surgery being done, all through VR.

Virtual supplement
The Franklin Institute is demonstrating that virtual reality can be used for more than just video games or watching sports game ? some of the most common ways VR is employed.

The technology can also serve as an event in its own right, encouraging users to come out and explore VR in a unique setting and as a supplement to other in=person experiences, in addition to its uses as an entertainment device at home.

Other companies have had success with those standard uses, such as FOX Sports, which began broadcasting live college football games through a VR app earlier this fall (see story).

Others, such as Time, Inc., have hewed closer to The Franklin Institute?s method and begun using VR to tell unique stories such as the climb from the bottom to the top of Mt. Everest (see story).

But these similar projects lack the on-site effect of The Franklin Institute?s VR library, which uses the technology of virtual reality to supplement the real life exhibits that can only be experienced in-person on the museum floor.

"The Institute will develop unique virtual reality and mobile content experiences and deliver them to expanded audiences, demonstrating that museums can take risks and lead the way digitally in ways they may have been reluctant to before," said Susan Poulton, newly hired chief digital officer for The Franklin Institute.