The Guangzhou Zoo marked its 60th anniversary by officially opening its ‘VR Zoo,’ which it declares on its website as the first of its kind around the globe, on January 1, 2018.
Combining virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D and other leading visual techs, it reveals the daily life of ‘stars’ at the zoo. The virtual paradise also boasts a variety of prehistoric creatures, extinct species and signature animals from around the world. Don’t be surprised by the smells of the jungle and animal sounds. All these are means to enhance an immersive and interactive experience.
The new VR exhibit came after the Guangzhou Zoo terminated its partnership with a circus show earlier this year, after 20 years’ cooperation. The now defunct half-hour animal performance attracted 10 million guests over the last 24 years. The shift shows that the zoo is looking to move with the times.
A spate of animal attacks around China in recent years has sparked discussion over out-of-date zoo management and animal welfare. As the country’s authorities have vowed to upgrade zoos to meet modern world standards within ten years, reforms seem inevitable. A modern zoo should focus on revealing authentic animal behaviors and function in service of animal protection and scientific research.
The zoo hopes the VR Zoo will be a calling card of Guangzhou. In the future, the project will interface internationally with animal fans online, according to Chen Zujin, a staff member in charge of science education at the Guangzhou Zoo. They will also combine VR technology with animal research and wild animal protection.