VR for Cultural Use Cases: The Mönchengladbach Escape Room Project
Die Weltenweberei is a studio for 3D visualization and virtual reality which was founded by four game design students in the nearby town of Krefeld. Die Weltenweberei creates VR with added value, especially in the cultural field, the medium offers itself to introduce young people, who would otherwise be hard to get excited about visiting a museum, back to cultural content, be it via ready-made VR applications or via workshops in which the participants themselves create a small VR application.
They came into partnership with the Kulturbüro Mönchengladbach to facilitate a VR workshop and provide their own value added professional guidance.
How do you get people hooked on visiting art galleries and museums at an early age? The Bureau of Culture for the German city of Mönchengladbach ( Kulturbüro Mönchengladbach ) has this problem to address within its remit to develop educational programs for young folk in the area. The city might be best known outside Germany for its successful top tier football club Borussia Mönchengladbach, but it also has an exciting and thriving avant-garde contemporary art scene centered around its postmodern design Abteiberg Museum.
So what idea did they come up with to get young people as enthusiastic for visiting the Abteiberg as they are for Borussia-Park stadium, and how did it involve VR agency “Die Weltenweberei”, drones, and a virtual escape room?
Escape from The Museum
In the Autumn of 2018 the Bureau of Culture devised a number of multi-disciplinary workshops aimed at the young people of Mönchengladbach aged 15-21. The main workshop was to build a live escape room in the backrooms of Abteiberg Museum. If you are not familiar with the concept, this is where you are locked in to a series of rooms, and to get out you need to first solve a number of puzzles. Whilst this was being fiendishly built, over at the local VHS (adult education centre) other workshops were creating a VR puzzle for the escape room, and a drone was being used to take aerial photos and video of the Mönchengladbach cityscape. The final component was a workshop at the central library composing music using a mobile-phone app that would become a thrilling soundtrack to the great escape.
It was then planned to bring all the components together into a VR game and virtual museum walkthrough that could be launched at the project’s closing party.
Can This Puzzle Be Cracked?
It was an exciting project involving diverse technology guaranteed to stimulate the imaginations of the participants, but the puzzle was how to actually realize it.
The Kulturbüro needed software to produce the VR app that didn’t involve coding and could be operated by the young participants. The alternative would be to bring in someone to program the VR app for them, but that would be too costly and the process too elaborate to realize. Plus the whole point is for everyone to be involved in the creative process; bringing in an expert would have excluded the youngsters from their endgame.
They clearly needed a simple software solution.
The Puzzle Solved!
Die Weltenweberei chose VRdirect for the software platform because of its ease of use with no coding skills required, and its ability to quickly publish projects and make them available across a range of devices.
Working with VRdirect, the workshop participants were able to quickly build a draft VR experience game and preview it at each stage on their mobile phones. Die Weltenweberei helped them bring together the drone video and photos, together with the music, from the other workshops and add them in VRdirect. Then Die Weltenweberei just needed to add their own expertise to give the VR experience the final bit of professional polish.
In the end, Die Weltenweberei were able to realize the project in less time than expected, and at an economical cost, which is important when you are promoting culture using money from the public purse.
The VR experience was released as an immersive 360o game called “ESC@P3 – Spiel das Museum” (‘Play the Museum’) and was a huge attention-drawing success. In fact it proved so popular that Mönchengladbach’s Bureau of Culture organized four additional events at which to showcase the VR experience / game.
At the end of November, the escape room VR experience was submitted to the VRdirect x TechCrunch Hackathon held in Berlin. It won first prize!