The future of planetariums: experts' opinion

How virtual reality changes the business with planetariums
The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Frederick II after a campaign in the middle East in 1229 brought with him an unusual tent as a trophy. This tent could rotate and its surface was covered with small holes that depicted the stars. Any time, day or night, the viewer sat in the center of the tent and enjoyed the view of the artificial sky. 600 years later, this idea prompted scientists to create a device with the same principle. The first planetarium, in our usual sense, opened in 1923 in Munich. His project was developed by Oscar von Miller and implemented with the help of Carl Zeiss company.
We are sure that even now, when you hear the word «planetarium» you imagine a large building with a dome, with hundreds of lamps inside that depict constellations, planets and comets. But thanks to modern technology, this is changing right now. There are mobile planetariums with an inflatable dome, on which special popular science films are shown, most of which are aimed on the children's audience.

Many people are excited about the idea of doing business related to the mobile planetarium tours to schools, training centers and summer camps.
The theme of stars and planets is especially interesting for children: 46% of visitors of the Moscow planetarium are guests from 0 to 18 years.

Kids are obviously interested in surrounding world. There is an certain age when young people are seriously interested only in dinosaurs and astronomy as well as explosive experiments. So stimulating this kind of interests by visual immerse is extremely important. Planetarium is connecting this thirst for experiments and real share of important knowledge with multimedia type of transmission - which kids like.
Radoslaw Pior, the owner of the mobile planetarium from Poland
Mobile planetariums bring school education to a new level: children's interest in learning increases, they look at old school subjects in a new way.

Like any technology, planetariums have their problems and drawbacks. We asked VR experts to share their views on this matter.
Photo: University of Washington News
One of the key is the way the viewer sits. Most often they sit on mattresses, without back support. It is tiring and slightly reduces the attractiveness of the screening. Some planetariums bring 3D glasses. However, this does not work, because the glasses limit the viewer's field of view, that is, spoil what is the main advantage of the planetarium.
Wojciech Figiela, mobile planetarium owner from Poland
    Not so long ago there was a breakthrough in the market of planetariums — the dome with all celestial bodies was digitized and transferred to virtual reality. Now you have no need to carry an inflatable dome and constantly assemble and disassemble it. All that you need now is VR glasses, iPad and access to the movie catalog. Children will experience the «immersion effect» in which they will see the structure of the atom, the processes of chemical reactions and even the Big Bang! The mere sight of VR headsets excites children's interest and desire to understand the subjects, textbooks on which they have not even opened before.
    I do see the AR/VR as possible methods for use in the planetarium setting and I think it is worth exploring. Educators can be creative in how to integrate useful learning tools by structuring lessons to maximize the learning.Time is short with our students and we aim to provide a productive, equitable and enjoyable learning experience for every one of them.
    Sarah Weaver, director at the Como Planetarium
    Modern technologies may seem too young, but they show promising results. To prove the viability and effectiveness of using VR in education, VRAR Lab company conducted an experiment in which 153 people participated: 6-17 years old teenagers and their parents. They organised a specially designed physics lesson that opens the subject from a new side. At the end, the participants were asked a few questions on the topic. The result met all expectations: 91.5% of the audience answered the questions correctly. According to VRAR Lab, 148 respondents out of 153 (97.4%) would be happy to take part in such a lesson again, and the majority indicated physics and chemistry as possible subjects.

    The virtual reality market is experiencing an extremely active phase of growth. Content sales have tripled since last year, and by 2020, projected to reach nearly $40 billion, according to SuperData Research. VR Planetarium is an advanced way of learning that combines ease of use, high level of involvement and success in the future. Virtual reality is actively integrated into other social spheres of life: the use of this technology is widespread in medicine, corporate training, industrial sector, etc. A full immersion in the learning increases learning efficiency and motivation of children. A realistic picture stimulates the brain, which means a qualitatively new level of information processing based on virtual reality.

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