A new 360 Video experience from the New Zealand Fire Service allows you to experience what it is like to see a fire spread before your eyes.
The VR experience, Escape My House, is a free app designed with Google Cardboard in mind, although as a 360 video app basically any VR set up will run it. In the experience, you see the start of a fire caused by an electric heater. You will see quickly the fire moves from small embers to completely filling the house with smoke and fire up until the point that you can see nothing but smoke and you get a tiny box in the middle of the screen that says “this room is now unsurvivable”.
In the rather underrepresented “house on fire” genre of computer experiences, this is probably the best. This may be because the only other example that comes to mind outside of actual VR training programmes is the rightly-forgotten Sega CD firefight-em-up Fahrenheit. Escape My House at least feels more like an actual game than that.
Feel the Heat
What is quite astonishing about the fire is how quickly it spreads. It is worth not trying to escape immediately just to see how the fire seems to jump from a series of clothes on a rack to rushing through a corridor, something that feels particularly striking even in the limited environment of Google Cardboard.
The VR experience was done by burning down an actual derelict house. Some bare essentials were added, and a Playstation 2 for whatever reason before filming the whole thing with two 360 camera setups. Moving between the two rooms of the house synchronises the video so the fire will be just as high whether you’re in the room or the hallway, which is actually a really nice touch.
Part of me really wants to see something similar be made into a full game or a bigger VR experience. Given that this used an actual house for its effects however, a full game would probably need an epidemic of condemned houses to be possible. It does provide a stark reminder of how easily a fire can start and how fast it can become lethal, as well as linking to general advice on how to make your house fire safe and how to reduce the chance of harm in the unfortunate case it does happen.