Exoskeletons for people with walking disabilities and red wine from Alaska: In a joint research project, the Cologne Game Lab (CGL) of the TH Köln and the Zukunftsmuseum in Nuremberg have developed a virtual image of life in the year 2050. Using virtual reality, visitors to the new branch of the Deutsches Museum can immerse themselves in a futuristic everyday scenario.

“We want to depict possible technological changes as well as global phenomena such as climate change and show what influence these may have on society in 30 years – and how we can also take countermeasures if necessary,” says Jonas Zimmer, research associate at the Cologne Game Lab. “So our VR time travel is not based on a science fiction vision, but on current developments as well as scientific studies and valid forecasts.”

(Images: TH Cologne)

Visitors can freely move around a 75-square-meter area in the museum with their VR goggles. “In a ten-minute period, up to four people can participate in the simulation at the same time and interact with each other as well as with the virtual environment,” says Zimmer. There are all kinds of objects to discover – including a bottle of red wine from Alaska: “In our scenario, climate change has already progressed to the point where grape cultivation is possible in Alaska. But that’s just one exemplary development – overall, we don’t want to create a dystopian or utopian picture with our simulation, but ideally to encourage people to think about and discuss technical progress.”

The VR time travel at the Museum of the Future not only serves as an exhibit, but is also a research laboratory. “The behavior of the participants in the simulation is recorded anonymously and analyzed in the further course of the project,” says Zimmer. “For example, how several people interact with each other in the virtual environment will be explored.” The CGL exhibit can initially be visited until the end of 2022. After that, the plan is to play with other scenarios in the VR exhibition area.

The virtual journey through time is embedded in the “Space and Time” theme area – one of a total of five thematic areas in the Future Museum in Nuremberg. In this, areas such as “Body and Mind” or “System Earth” are highlighted and 255 various prototypes, installations and experiments from real research projects are shown. “It was important to us from the very beginning to also implement a top-class VR offering at the Deutsches Museum in Nuremberg,” says Dr. Andreas Gundelwein from the Deutsches Museum, who managed the overall project. “With the VR time travel, our visitors can have a fully interactive and extremely entertaining playful ‘future experience’ that is unparalleled in this form and which ideally complements the classic exhibition on the topic.”

The “Virtual Lab” research project is being carried out at the Cologne Game Lab (CGL) of the TH Köln by a diverse team of professors, alumni, students, student assistants and freelancers. Project leaders are Prof. Björn Bartholdy and Prof. Dr. Gundolf S. Freyermuth at the CGL and Dr. Andreas Gundelwein at the Deutsches Museum. The project is funded by the State of Bavaria.