Bill Nye is pissed.
In an energetic interview with Engadget this week, he covered everything from the pandemic, to climate change, to the vice presidential debates and QAnon. But ostensibly, he was here to promote his newly launched VR Science Kit.
“When it’s science fair time in your elementary school,” he said, “What does everybody do? They make a volcano, right?” That time-honored tradition is one of the projects you’ll be able to create in the kit, along with some other fun and familiar experiments that Nye will guide your child through with some AR popups if you point your phone at the book. Stick your phone into the VR goggles, and your child can visit a volcano or go to a classroom and science lab in VR with the Science Guy himself. “It’s what you’d expect from a modern virtual reality experience,” he said.
The Bill Nye VR science kit is available on Amazon (and soon on Target) for $60, and it includes equipment like test tubes, a beaker, volcano mold, food coloring as well as a basic VR headset and a book with augmented reality bonus content.
Nye teamed up with toy maker Abacus on his kit, which the company pointed out is “the first Bill Nye authorized VR science kit ever to be produced.” Nye didn’t just slap his name on a product, either. He offered input on which projects to be included and in what order, and also provided his voice for the content as well as some of the writing. “You’re listening to Uncle Bill tell you these amazing things,” he said.
Many of us might have grown up watching Uncle Bill on TV, but these days, the Science Guy reaches his audience via trendier platforms like TikTok and his Science Rules podcast. Nye has 4.7 million followers and almost 20 million likes on TikTok. His clips are like a less-produced version of the TV show, teaching viewers things like the reason behind different skin colors.
“There’s the potential for some real education or getting a message across [on TikTok],” Nye said. If it’s just one straightforward idea, he believes the platform might be effective. But he also cautioned, “It’s cool but it’s not the answer to all of our problems, everybody.”
And there are many problems in the world today, one of which is internet access. “When I’m king of the forest, which is a ways off, to be sure,” Nye said, he would like the internet to be a public utility.
With his reputation as the Science Guy, Nye is also unsurprisingly concerned about the upcoming elections in America. “Science is on the ballot this year. Science is something you're voting for,” he said, urging people to vote. He pointed out three things he wants for everyone in the world to have: “Clean water, renewably produced electricity that’s reliable and access to the internet.”
“If we can provide those three things then we can do the ultimate thing,” he said. “We can raise the standard of living of girls and women around the world.” By providing those things, too, Nye believes “we will address climate change and everything else all at once.”
But to do that, we’ll need more scientists working the problems, which brings us back to the VR kit. “I hope that with Bill Nye’s VR lab, we’ll get a start on that,” he said. Nye’s fans, make sure to check out all the things Nye chatted with us about in the video above or the latest episode of the Engadget Podcast.