Virtual reality lets users step into an infinite number of worlds limited only by the creator’s imagination and the hardware powering it. It can let users immerse themselves almost completely in epic adventures, fantastical worlds, and even a simulated bar fight, not to mention exploring depths of space from the comfort and safety of their living room.
For example, no one alive today is likely ever to see a black hole with their naked eyes. All things considered, they might not want to get that close to a gargantuan vortex of overwhelming gravity. However, a recently uploaded virtual reality video lets viewers plunge headfirst into the event horizon without having their atoms compressed into an infinitely small lump of matter.
French visual effects artist Alessandro Roussel created the video to show people what it would look like to fall into a black hole. Watching it in virtual reality gives viewers the impression of falling through a tunnel of spiraling blue-white light leading to the black hole ahead of you. Looking up, down, or to either side reveals a field of stars that slowly warp as the viewer approaches the black hole’s event horizon. Even without the benefit of a VR headset, the 360° video is genuinely awe-inspiring to look at.
Roussel’s video is only two minutes long and not interactive beyond the ability to rotate the view a full 360° in any direction. However, it’s still a great example of the unique experiences that virtual reality enables. If nothing else, it should make people excited at the possibilities VR’s future might bring.
For those who don’t know, black holes are the incredibly dense remnants of stars that have reached the end of their natural life cycle. Stars produce heat and light from fusing the hydrogen atoms in their core. After billions of years, stars consume all of their available fuel and violently collapse under their own immense gravitational pull, often resulting in a massive explosion called a supernova. The most massive of these dead stars collapse into a sphere of matter so heavy and dense that even light can’t escape its gravitational pull.
Interestingly, physicists believe that a human could theoretically survive falling into a black hole under the right circumstances. It’s believed that if the black hole is large and isolated, someone could pass through the event horizon without falling into its hyper-compressed core. But, of course, getting out would be significantly more difficult, and they wouldn’t be able to send back any messages about what it was like. Fortunately, no one reading this is likely to ever find themselves in that situation outside of this incredible virtual reality experience.