With companies like Meta and apple betting heavily on the future of virtual reality, so has one entomologist. Antonio Gustin invented a high-resolution 360º camera that can take you into the terrarium with his animals in virtual reality.
Antonio Gustin, director of the Gateway Science Project, is known for its dynamic and theatrical live insect show, Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo. Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo was a program that allowed students to touch and hold live insects from around the world. The show had a powerful long-lasting eﬀect on students and was designed to inspire scientific curiosity. The pandemic brought that to an end. The program attempted to go virtual like many other programs. Gustin was not satisfied with the impact.
“’Virtual’ is just another word for video. Our live show was a dynamic and powerful experience for students. COVID-19 had brought us to our creative knees on how to recreate that experience. I mean, how do you create an engaging personal experience without being there to personally engage? The answer was ‘virtual reality’.”
Prior to the pandemic, Gustin had a mission to create a permanent location, an insect/reptile themed science park for kids and families. A place that provided experiences for kids where they could explore and learn on their own. He recreated that vision in virtual reality.
“The only virtual equivalent to holding a live insect that I could think of was to be in the terrarium with that insect,” said Gustin. “The first hurdle was that the technology did not exist for a macro-VR camera. So, I invented one. The endeavor took a frustrating 2 years, but the results were spectacular.”
Gustin then set about putting it altogether. He partnered with world renowned insect collector Dan Capps. Capps, at one point, had amassed the world’s largest private insect collection. It is the only world-class collection of its kind designed for the public. The Capps Exhibit was even featured at Disney’s Epcot Center.
Together, they created an ultra-high-definition virtual tour of the exhibit. The goal is not just to preserve the collection for posterity but to also document the story of Dan Capps and his lifelong adventure as a passionate entomologist.
“Dan Capps is now in his 70’s and isn’t getting any younger and traveling to display the exhibit is becoming increasingly challenging. It is Dan’s wish that his collection be shared with the world, otherwise, what was the point?” Says Gustin.
On October 15th, 2023, after 4 years of working in secret, Gustin released his vision, Creepy World VR. An immersive collection of 3 virtual reality experiences: The Creepy Crawly Zoo 2.0, a live insect/reptile zoo, The Capps Exhibit, and the Nature Trail, an outdoor experience spanning ½ mile of trails through various environments.
“It has taken years and hundreds of hours just to get to this point, but it is really just the beginning. As technology improves, the layers and layers of immersive interaction that can be added are literally endless. I can’t wait to see where we are in the next couple of years,” says Gustin.
Creepy World VR is free to experience at www.creepyworldvr.com -for now. In 2024, Gustin plans to offer group experiences to schools and license it out to other educational institutions. His vision for the future includes using AI to make it multi-lingual to reach a global audience and capitalizing on his proprietary camera to create a Meta TV series.
About Antonio Gustin "The Bug Whisperer™”
Antonio Gustin has dedicated his life to inspiring scientific curiosity, infusing his passion for entomology into a career that spans 3 decades. Performer, educator, award-winning video producer, author, science evangelist, and inventor, his latest innovation, Creepy World VR™, is not just an evolution of his life's work but a revolution in educational technology, offering an immersive portal to the wonders of the natural world. In 2018 Gustin founded the Gateway Science Project, Inc., a nonprofit that uses insects to inspire scientific curiosity.