Over the past couple weeks, a new feature quietly debuted at the Milwaukee County Zoo and it brings visitors nose to nose with mountain gorillas.
The Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience is a fully-immersive experience that takes place in the changing exhibits building near Macaque Island and the Milwaukee County Zoo is the first in the nation to have it.
Admission is $7, and $6 for zoo members.
Entering into the building, you can learn more about gorillas in general and about the gorillas in the VR experience, filmed 10,000-feet up into the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, as well as the five in residence at Milwaukee County Zoo.
Then, you enter the theater, hop into a seat, put on your VR headset and get a unique and up-close look at these fascinating creatures along with primatologist Dr. Tara Stoinski of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
The seats move to add to the audio and the all-in 360-degree visual experience. You can look up and down and behind you and you feel like your moving. At times during the six-minute experience, you literally get nose to nose with some of the these endangered gorillas as you learn about their family make-up and how new families are formed from existing ones.
“We are thrilled to partner with Immotion to offer this groundbreaking virtual reality experience to our visitors,” said Zoo Director Amos Morris.
“This one-of-a-kind experience is yet another means for us to engage guests to get interested and involved in the conservation of species and develop empathy for animals. It’s the Zoo’s hope that this stunning presentation on mountain gorillas will not soon be forgotten by all those who see it.”
In the pre-show exhibit, you’ll learn more about the endangered gorillas, of which there are fewer than a 1,000 left in the world, as well as about the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which works to protect them.
The performance and the equipment from from U.K. company Immotion.
“At Immotion, we build on the amazing conservation and education work that zoos are doing but take it to the next level — giving guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they couldn’t otherwise have,” said company President Rod Findley.
“People come out of Gorilla Trek and they really feel they have been transported to a different world.”
The exhibit has no closing date for now and spokesperson Jennifer Dilberti-Shea says that it will be here for several years.
Some seasonal VR shows may also come and go – for Halloween, as a potential example – during that time, too.
You can buy tickets in advance online or at the ticket window at the exhibit itself. Gorilla Trek Virtual Reality Experience is open whenever the zoo is open: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Labor Day through Oct. 31.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.