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Exploring sacred sites with virtual reality

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From a tour of the holy city of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to pilgrimages to the Western Wall and Kaaba at Mecca, worshippers and visitors around the world are able to join virtual reality spiritual trips to some of Earth's most sacred sites. Religious VR explorations are among the many evolving spaces in the immersive virtual world known as the metaverse. "We believe that virtual reality is the new Internet, the new way for people not to watch things passively on the screen, but to actually teleport themselves and can go and travel and explore," said Nimrod Shanit, producer and director of The Holy City virtual reality experience. In 2015 Shanit began constructing The Holy City, an immersive virtual reality experience that allows people to visit Jerusalem's holiest sites. Through the metaverse virtual pilgrims can now follow Orthodox clerics as they emerge from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Holy Fire ceremony, they can tuck a prayer note into a crack of the Western Wall, or follow the steps of thousands of worshippers during Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Similarly in 2015, Ehab Fares, chief executive of the digital agency BSocial, began creating a virtual experience that would allow VR visitors to pilgrimage to and explore some of Islam's most sacred sites including Mecca. He called it Experience Makkah. The latest version can be explored through Google Cardboard, a low-cost cardboard attachment that turns smartphones into virtual reality viewers.

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