Innovation That Matters

Group VR: Children taken on surprise road trip to Mars

Publishing & Media

Field Trip To Mars rigged an entire school bus with virtual reality screens, providing an immersive Martian experience for school children onboard.

Becoming an astronaut is one of the most popular life goals for many school children (and yes, many adults). The vast amount of unknown data ignites a sense of wonder and curiosity that regular science topics such as physics or chemistry may lack. That’s why, incorporating space exploration into the classroom is a fun way of getting kids interested in learning about science. We have already seen a startup enabling students to conduct experiments in space, and now Field Trip To Mars is a school bus equipped with virtual reality windows, which gave the children onboard a lifelike Martian bus ride.

The project took place in Washington D.C., and was a collaboration between aerospace company Lockheed Martin, McCann New York, and visual effects company Framestore. Thinking they were taken for a field trip to the Science and Engineering Festival, the kids were surprised when the lights dimmed and their windows showed passing images of the Red Planet. To simulate the experience of a bus driving through Mars, the teams used Unreel and Game Engine to integrate the physical with the virtual — when the bus was driving 30 mph down the road, the screens displayed Martian imagery in the same speed; when the bus came across a bump, or turned left or right, the screens move according to what riders were feeling. The bus even had speakers that simulated a sandstorm when it drove through one.


The team created a 250 square mile drivable area, and mapped every street in Washington D.C. on the virtual Mars. Windows on the bus had a 4K transparent display and a layer of switchable film, which goes from opaque to transparent to show the virtual imagery. The project explored the potential for group VR — an immersive and social experience without headsets, where users can point things out to friends, communicate, and interact in 4D.

Where else can group VR be used?



Download PDF