One of Houston’s most unique traits is its reputation as Space City. For many natives, field trips to Space Center Houston were as common as hearing “Houston, we have a problem” in conversation. And for the next four weeks, Houstonians have the chance to relive their space explorer fantasies with THE INFINITE, a virtual reality experience of the International Space Station (ISS).
Brought to life by Montreal-based Felix & Paul Productions in collaboration with NASA and TIME Studios, THE INFINITE fuses new technological developments with our society’s increased interest in space. The Emmy Award-winning interactive landed in Houston in December and was extended through April 17 by popular demand.
I set out for Sawyer Yards on a quiet, overcast day. Arriving at a warehouse in First Ward, a banner that read “THE INFINITE” was on the outside wall. After passing through security, I was in line with three other visitors as we awaited instructions.
We entered Zone 1, a triangular, white-walled space where a soft voice proclaimed that the “stars are calling us.” A sliding door opened with dramatic suddenness, and we entered Zone 2, where we awaited onboarding. The experience guides explained how to wear the Oculus headset and navigate the main space. Before suiting up and embarking on my mission, I watched other visitors moving slowly through the space and felt nervous about just how immersive things would feel once making it to the main floor. I took off my glasses as one of the attendants assisted me with putting on my headset (pro tip: If you have contacts, wear them). And I was completely amazed.
Inside this new reality, hovering more than 200 miles above Earth, I became an avatar moving through a 3-D rendering of the ISS. At each turn, I interacted with glowing orbs, 12 real-life astronauts whose testimonies illustrated the reality of living and working in space.
The experience is organized into four themes, “Adaptation,” “Progress,” “Unity” and “Expansion.” Moving through, I learned about daily astronaut activities, such as group exercise and lab work, the importance of teamwork and the impact that outer space exploration has on our home planet. After 35 minutes, all visitors moved beyond the ISS and were assigned seats to travel through a cinematic spacewalk.
The experience’s climax is a high-frequency audiovisual installation by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, entitled The Universe with the Universe. Later in Zone 6, a mirrored hallway made to resemble a wormhole guided us back to Earth, where we gazed up at the sun-drenched roof of a forest. “We made it back home,” remarked a stranger.
The 60-minute, multisensory production is a total body experience that brings the stars right to your fingertips. Appropriately dubbed “out of this world,” THE INFINITE is something that every Houstonian should experience.
THE INFINITE is open through April 17 before it leaves for Seattle. Tickets start at $45 and are discounted for seniors, kids and students. For more information, visit here.