“VR Time Travel” (VR-Zeitreise) is a virtual reality experience at the Deutsches Museum Nuremberg. It is an interactive VR experience for up to four players as a contextualizing final exhibit of the Zukunftsmuseum (Museum of the Future).

The VR-Zeitreise (VR Time Travel) at the Deutsches Museum Nuremberg is an room-scale, shared-space virtual reality multiplayer experience that can be found as a highlight at the end of the exhibition. Instead of looking into the past like other museums, the newly built Deutsches Museum Nuremberg dares to look into the future, showing current scientific developments, illuminating the parallels between science and fiction, and leading social and political discourses of the future. The VR installation allows to experience these exhibits in an interactive way: since the simulation is not bound by physical boundaries, it enables the presentation of technologies and developments that currently exist only conceptually or as prototypes, and presents them in a contextualizing framework. Thus, the game seamlessly integrates into the didactic concept of the museum!

The working title “Project Holodeck”, named after the entertainment space of the series Star Trek, was the leitmotif for our installation: Freely walkable, intuitively experienceable and with high immersive potential. The project allows up to four players to freely explore a shared space: the 85m² area is used by all at the same time to achieve the common game goal. By moving freely in the real space and focusing on intuitively learnable interactions, the players take on the virtual presence naturally. The game is an interactive wimmelbild in which there is enough to discover even without strictly following the game goal. This allows even game- and VR-inexperienced users to take an entertaining journey into the future.

A self-developed spatial-calibration system allows the perfect alignment of virtual and real space, enabling even technically inexperienced personnel to align the player position in a few moments. The result is a credible representation of one’s own physical presence in virtual space as well as acceptance of the presence of fellow players. The game completely dispenses with artificial movement methods such as teleportation and joystick inputs, instead relying entirely on natural locomotion. This leads to a very intuitive and low-threshold experience, which was played by about 22,000 players in the first year – without any collisions with other players or the surrounding walls.

In addition to serving as an entertaining exhibit, VR Time Travel is currently being used to research presence and immersion in shared-space VR simulations, and will be for years to come. The project emerged from a research collaboration between the Deutsches Museum and the Cologne Game Lab at the TH Köln. The project team consisted of 21 members of the Game Lab’s research department, mostly students and alumni of the Digital Games program.