IONS Overview Effect VR Experience Available On-Demand

June 1, 2021
Experience & Engagement Team

When astronaut Edgar Mitchell viewed the Earth from space he experienced what is now known as the “overview effect” – the awe-inspiring realization that our planet is merely a spaceship moving through the vastness of space. Mitchell was not alone: many astronauts have had similar life-changing experiences in space. For Edgar Mitchell, the experience was the impetus for launching the Institution for Noetic Sciences (IONS).

While only astronauts, so far, have experienced the true “overview effect” from space, IONS took the important step of creating a virtual reality experience that allows people to have a personal and profound encounter with the “overview effect” that Edgar Mitchell and other astronauts have reported experiencing while in space.

This full-immersion virtual reality (VR) experience, released in November 2020, recreates Mitchell’s actual spaceflight while also including narrative in Mitchell’s own voice. The experience was developed by IONS scientist and two-time Oscar-winning co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios Loren Carpenter and IONS Board Chairman Claudia Weiss (executive producers); Senior IONS Fellow, project lead, and producer Cassandra Vieten; Emmy-award winning and Oscar-nominated director/producer Bristol Baughan; and the award-winning creators of the VR Apollo 11, ImmersiveVR Education (VR experience programmers), based in Ireland.

The outcome is a unique presentation, described by one reviewer as “…a meditative, visceral experience of transcendence. As we journey through space, we hear Edgar’s voice guide us through the dissolving of any and all boundaries within our consciousness to the universal connection we humans share.”

Can a VR experience recreate the overview effect in audiences? IONS researchers will make use of the VR experience, as well as a set of educational materials including a video intro, follow-up questions for class discussion, journaling prompts, and resources for further exploration, to study its ability to instill awe, sense of self, compassion, interconnectedness, and curiosity.

What impact will the “overview effect” have on you or people in your life? Click the links below to find out!

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