Visitors touring the Cradle of Humankind site in South Africa are now able to explore its deep narrow caves, thanks to the virtual reality technology.
As CRI's Li Yi reports, researchers have developed a VR app allowing users access to one of the most inaccessible caves and trace the pieces of the puzzle of human evolution.
Over the past years, the World Heritage site has yielded numerous fossils that tell the stories of human evolution.
One of the most significant finds was the remains of the Homo Naledi species in the Dinaledi Chamber, a room in the Rising Star Cave system outside Johannesburg. With nearly 2000 specimens recovered from at least 15 individuals, Rising Star Cave is believed to be the largest fossil hominin site discovered in Africa to date.
Now, thanks to researchers from South Africa and the United States, people around the world can virtually tour the Dinaledi Chamber with an app called 'Dinaledi'.
Marina Elliot with the University of the Witwatersrand says the app allows people to see inside the spectacular cave which is difficult to get into.
"The VR app is actually a really awesome opportunity for us, as some people may know that Dinaledi chamber is very difficult to get into, there is only about 20 people in the world who have ever been into that space, and so for us because Homo Naledi is such an exciting discovery and the material is so spectacular, we wanted to make sure everybody got a chance to actually go into that space and see what it's like for themselves,” she said.
According to people who have been inside the Dinaledi Chamber, the app looks almost exactly like the cave with an even better lighting and easier access.
Professor Lee Berger with Wits University.
"What this app does is in three dimensional space, it actually places you right over where our excavation occurs. So you can actually see the original excavation area, you can...if you search around, you can actually find some fossils, and make discoveries and pick them up and look at them if you will in virtual space, but you can also explore the rest of the remarkable chamber, you can look about. It's a true 360 degree experience," he said.
The app features six scientists describing the cave in their native languages, a function which is welcomed by Mathabela Tsikoane, who works with the research team to explore the caves.
"I think it's a great experience to be included, you know. If I get to a place and people speak the language that I speak, I feel they are speaking to me. They're speaking to my heart. So, it feels great for Sesotho to be included," he said.
The team says they are working to make their digs more accessible and to enrich the experience that the app offers to visitors who are eager to learn more about human evolution.