Overview (A Walk Through the Universe) is a virtual reality experience that lets users explore the universe, starting from the Earth through the solar system, the Milky Way, and beyond. Overview was created with data from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Minor Planet Center and aims to give users a better understanding of the scale of the universe. It is available on Steam and VIVEPORT for $9.99.
For any space nerd, Overview is heaven. The high quality graphics in Overview make it clear that it was designed with meticulous care. This makes for an awe-inspiring experience. On the website, the creators of Overview highlight the importance of accuracy and emphasize their commitment to making a tool educators can trust. This increases the wow-factor for users, who will marvel at both the beauty and vastness of the universe recreated by Overview. Observing different planets and celestial bodies in VR is an effective way to understand scale and visualize magnitudes that might otherwise seem impossible to comprehend.
The entire experience is 32 minutes long but users can choose to navigate to different chapters if they want a specific or shorter experience. It doesn’t feel abrupt to start in the middle of the experience and having the option to skip around is nice.
While Overview is beautiful, it’s not particularly interactive. It functions primarily as a documentary. It can be a fun classroom tool but it is largely a passive activity. This could lead to low engagement or even frustration on the part of those wishing to interact with the celestial bodies they’re learning about. Unfortunately, passive one-time experiences have become a common theme of educational VR.
Some of my colleagues found the narration and music of Overview to be unnecessarily creepy. While there is something about space that makes it undeniably ominous, hurtling through infinite darkness with spooky music playing and a deep, doomsday voice narrating became unsettling after a while. Perhaps lightening the mood (or at least the music) at times would make the experience more welcoming.
Overview is a beautiful experience that effectively demonstrates the scale of the universe and its awe-inspiring celestial bodies. While it lacks true interactive features, it’s still a good investment for space fanatics.Image: Overview by Orbital Views