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.
“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.