Dinaledivr Pic 2

The explor­ers team of the Ris­ing Star expe­di­tion expe­ri­ence the Dinale­di vir­tu­al real­i­ty tour for the first time, in front of the entrance of the actu­al cave. The team are (from left to right) Steven Tuck­er, Dr Mari­na Elliot (explo­ration team leader), Rick Hunter, Math­a­bela Tsikoane, Maropeng Ramalepa and Dirk van Rooyen. Pic­ture Cred­it: Wits University 

The stones and bones dis­cov­ered in the Cra­dle of Humankind have tak­en researchers, stu­dents and explor­ers back in time, pro­vid­ing great his­tor­i­cal insight. But now, researchers in the Cra­dle of Humankind have set their sights on the future by intro­duc­ing immer­sive tech­nol­o­gy in the form of a vir­tu­al real­i­ty app that offers a pal­pa­ble expe­ri­ence of the Dinale­di Chamber. 

The Dinale­di Cham­ber forms part of the Ris­ing Star cave sys­tem and is the under­ground room in which his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant hominin fos­sils such as Homo nale­di have been dis­cov­ered. Very few peo­ple can ever hope to gain access to this cham­ber, but thanks to an amaz­ing app that can be down­loaded to your mobile device, you can learn more about ear­ly human history. 

The Dinale­di Cham­ber VR Expe­ri­ence app was revealed at a Face­book Live news con­fer­ence on 23 Octo­ber 2018, where Wits pro­fes­sor and palaeon­tol­o­gist Lee Berg­er, along­side Dr Lin­da Sil­ver, CEO of the Per­ot Muse­um of Nature and Sci­ence in Dal­las, Unit­ed States, offi­cial­ly announced the app.

The app gives users the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go on a vir­tu­al tour of the Dinale­di Cham­ber and expe­ri­ence a fos­sil site where some world-famous dis­cov­er­ies have been made. It allows peo­ple to vir­tu­al­ly dis­cov­er and recov­er ancient fos­sils in the cave, tak­ing them on an explo­ration nar­rat­ed in six lan­guages, includ­ing Span­ish, Zulu, Setswana and Sesotho.

Dinaledivr Pic 1

The explor­ers team of the Ris­ing Star expe­di­tion expe­ri­ence the Dinale­di vir­tu­al real­i­ty tour for the first time, in front of the entrance of the actu­al cave. The team are (from left to right) Steven Tuck­er, Dr Mari­na Elliot (explo­ration team leader), Rick Hunter, Math­a­bela Tsikoane, Maropeng Ramalepa and Dirk van Rooyen. Pic­ture Cred­it: Wits University

This vir­tu­al real­i­ty app and our part­ner­ship with Wits Uni­ver­si­ty is just the begin­ning,” said Sil­ver. It demon­strates our desire to com­mu­ni­cate in an inno­v­a­tive, engag­ing way that reduces bar­ri­ers and makes sci­ence explo­ration uni­ver­sal­ly acces­si­ble and exciting.”

The app places some impor­tant clues to the ori­gins of human ances­try at your fin­ger­tips. It fea­tures laser-scanned 3D images of the mag­nif­i­cent sta­lac­tites on the cham­ber ceil­ing and the exca­va­tion unit on the floor; offers exten­sive insight on the fos­sils; and shows the pas­sages lead­ing out of the cham­ber. You will also see the bats that live in the cham­ber fly past you before your tour comes to an end.

This inno­v­a­tive expe­ri­ence is a next-gen­er­a­tion step in palaeon­tol­ogy and has the poten­tial to appeal to young peo­ple from all over the world and pro­mote an inter­est in the sci­ences and tech­nol­o­gy. The app is com­pat­i­ble with all hand­sets and is avail­able for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Skylight Hdr No People

A vir­tu­al tour into the Dinale­di Cham­ber with a sci­en­tist describ­ing the cave in one of the app’s six lan­guages. Pic­ture Cred­it: Wits University