Thirty years ago the town of Pripyat, Ukraine – about 15 kilometres outside of Chernobyl – was home to roughly 45,000 people. Today it remains largely abandoned; except for the daily influx of tourists who come from all over the world to see the aftermath of the worst nuclear accident in history.
All of the residents of Pripyat were forced to abandon their homes within 24 hours of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. The area is now known as the “exclusion zone,” where radiation levels still remain slightly higher than normal.
Yet thousands of tourists still visit the town and its eerie post-apocalyptic buildings each year – a trend often referred to as “toxic tourism.”
READ MORE: Chernobyl 30 years later: One man’s journey into ‘apocalyptic’ city (in photos)
But for those who aren’t brave enough to enter the exclusion zone, or aren’t able to make the journey to Ukraine, you can now visit the abandoned buildings of Pripyat in 360 degrees from the comfort of your own home.
Polish virtual reality firm The Farm 51 unveiled the “Chernobyl VR Project” Tuesday, in remembrance of the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
The virtual reality experience – which will work on multiple virtual reality headsets, including Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive – will take users on a tour of the abandoned city and offer interactive features designed to teach users about the disaster. Think of it as a virtual reality documentary.
“Chernobyl VR Project is an edutainment application that will allow users to take a virtual trip around the disaster’s site using a VR headset. The Farm 51 team plans on staying true to reality when recreating the power plant grounds and parts of the city of Pripyat,” reads the company’s website.
“We wish to immortalize the polluted zone before it is closed or destroyed, and let the user learn about the events of April 26, 1986.”
In order to create the documentary, the team took footage of Pripyat’s buildings and surroundings using drones, cameras and 3D scanning devices.
To do so, they needed to be classified as a research team by the government and military in order to bring drones and equipment like generators, because there is no power, into the exclusion zone. Because the team was granted this access, they were also able to capture footage of areas off limits to tourists, like the Chernobyl nuclear plant itself.
READ MORE: Chernobyl: High radiation levels found in Belarus milk, 30 years after disaster
The final product will be released to Oculus Rift users in June. Global News contacted The Farm 51 to find out whether the team has plans to bring the experience to a more accessible virtual reality platform like Google Cardboard; however, a request for comment was not returned.
According to the company’s Facebook page, proceeds from each sale of the Chernobyl VR Project will be donated to organizations that help victims of the Chernobyl tragedy.
“In association with the Polish-Ukrainian Open Dialog Foundation, we will select organizations to provide support to (10, 30, or 60 percent of sales profit, depending on the application version). In the meantime, please check our brand new 360-degree video released today,” read the post.
“We believe that Virtual Reality (VR) is not only about entertainment. It is a fast developing technology which can serve as an excellent tool also when it comes to addressing important social issues.”