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BBC Earth announces VR partnership with Oculus

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BBC Earth, the world’s leading natural history producer, has announced a new partnership with Oculus to launch three new bespoke virtual reality (VR) experiences, which will invite users to step into the lives of some very distinct animals. Users will be able to fully immerse themselves into the daily adventures of a Caracal Cat, an Oogpister Beetle and a Black Bear. All three virtual reality experiences will be released separately on Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR platforms in January 2017, and will be available free to download for the first three months.

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Included in the three experiences will be “Cat Flight,” featuring the incredible leap of the Caracal Cat. By integrating cutting-edge computer generated imagery (CGI) into 360 degree video, users will be able to uncover the mystery behind how these extraordinary predators survive in the wild. The ability to freeze the Caracal mid-jump and adjust the zoom in this unique experience will enable users to get up close and personal, and learn about the workings of this animal.

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The second experience, “Oogie,” will be an interactive CGI game featuring the fascinating Oogpister Beetle as it scurries through the African Savannah. Based on real life footage from BBC Earth, the player will get to take on the form of the beetle and encounter the daily challenges of this unique creature. Fighting for survival in a world where leaves are the size of buildings and tree trunks the size of cranes, users will need to speedily guide the beetle to safety, avoiding hazards, obstacles, and deadly predators.

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The third experience, “Bear Island,” presents an interactive 360 degree video where users will join Black Bears on a journey to the banks of an Alaskan river full of life. Created to let the audience feel as though they are really there, the user will be able to jump between different perspectives and parallel storylines, making full use of the interactivity that VR provides.

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Julia Kenyon, Global Brands Director for BBC Worldwide said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Oculus to give audiences a completely different insight into the natural world. By allowing users to immerse themselves in the environments of these three animals, we are hoping to bring people rich and unforgettable adventures different from any traditional natural history series.’’ Nature fans of all ages will be able to learn about these extraordinary animals in three very different environments. These virtual-firsts from BBC Earth not only allow the user to take a closer look at the animals, but experience what it is like to inhabit their world.

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This isn't the BBC's first experience on the Oculus platform, as last year, the company released “We Wait,” a VR film created with the help of Aardman, which depicts the harrowing and often perilous journey undertaken by Syrian refugees, as they cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe in search of a better life. Based on interviews with migrants and refugees who had taken the same trip, the dramatised experience begins on the beaches of Turkey, and from there you travel onwards to Greece on a smuggler’s boat. While We Wait might have the BBC’s first experience for the Oculus platform, but it wasn't actually the first time the broadcaster had dabbled with VR. The corporation had already produced experiences to coincide with the Rio Olympics, and the launch of Planet Earth II, amongst others so their newly announced partnership with Oculus makes a lot of sense. We look forward to seeing how it progresses throughout 2017.

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