How VR can impact sustainability

Why is VR useful for demonstrating climate change?

Therapists use Virtual Reality to create safe environments for exposure therapy. So let's start by first defining exposure therapy.

Think about things like anxiety disorders, OCD, or extreme phobias. Exposure therapy can treat things like these. Exposure therapy presents the patient with the source of their anxiety or phobia. The major difference is there's no danger involved.

So instead of coming face-to-face with a giant hairy spider, a VR experience can be used instead.

VR increases the players' empathy compared to traditional screens. We've all heard that prolonged exposure to violent video games can affect players in real life. As a result, video game players tend to show less empathy and lower morals in real life.

study was done with 120 university students based on the General Aggression Model. They played violent video games, and their aggression levels were tested before and after playing. The results showed higher levels of aggression based on the level of empathy or morals of the character they played. According to the game, characters who killed people for justified reasons showed a lot less empathy than those who killed for unjustified reasons.

VR closes the divide between game and player. So instead of watching avatars interact on a screen outside your world, you're immersed in the world where the action is happening. With no screen separating you from the action, it becomes your world. Studies have shown that [VR can help to reduce aggression]

Another way that VR environments can be helpful today is better understanding climate change and what it means for our planet. It all boils down to caring about other life forms. We share the Earth with animals and plants that make up the environment we also depend on to survive.

Most people will never be able to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef. And while that's true, they might still have a deep and personal experience with it. A virtual reality experience can recreate that environment for them.

To date, there have been many programs putting the viewer in a powerful interactive scene, accenting the power of the environment. However, the MIT experience called "The Tree" is one that rises above the rest. The player starts life as a seed, grows into a tree, and experiences a forest fire. The experience is made hyper-realistic with wind machines and heat lamps until the player, as a tree, eventually dies.

What are other VR climate change projects out there?

Redline VR offers educational programming using virtual reality headsets. Some of these include the life-cycle of the honey bee, Carole Baskin's Big Cat Rescue, Oceans We Make, The Blu, and Pig/Frog Dissection. There's also a biology experience allowing students to navigate through a forest. Here they can explore, discover, and learn about the different families of fungi. They can even see them in their natural habitat. Google Earth is another amazing tool for understanding the Earth in Virtual Reality.

Besides Redline VR, other companies are promoting the creation of VR content focused on Environmental Art. These include companies like Artizen, Catalyst Fund, and Kaleidoscope.

Can VR be effective for showing climate change?

Virtual Reality is more successful at creating empathetic, immersive experiences than traditional media. That's why it's the best format to showcase the scale of climate change. Humans often forget the scope and scale of the universe. But we're awestruck when viewing the Earth from above via a VR headset.

Facts and figures are meaningless compared to being at ground zero in a disaster. Think for a moment. Do you understand the power of a volcano better when reading about its core temperature? Or would you get a better idea by seeing the lava flow pass below your feet, igniting a nearby tree? Virtual Reality is more than just effective at showing the effects of climate change. It might be the MOST effective way to do so.

Earth is getting hotter and hotter every day. But what if you could be placed in a simulated environment proving how hot Earth could be in 100 years? Based on a study by Pew Research, 20% of people think climate change is not that serious, and 9% don't think it's even real. So perhaps, a personal experience would convince people to start taking care of our only home.

Can VR be useful in showing other ideas that are not currently happening but will happen?

As humans, we have this innate obsession with the future. So many movies and novels have tried to give us even a glimpse into centuries ahead. But the truth is that it's always from a third-person perspective. Whether you're watching on a screen or reading someone else's account, you're never in action. But what if you could be the one experiencing the events and telling the story instead?

Virtual Reality is a better way to depict the future than traditional projections or animations. It can put the viewer directly in the thick of things. Instead of theoretical doom brought on by a slowly descending line on a graph, virtual Reality can place you in the middle of the coral reef. Imagine being there when the vibrant, colorful flora around the reefs slowly turns skeletal white and vacant on the sea bed below your feet.

Animating realistic three-dimensional environments that surround the viewer is the most powerful way to prove the effects of current actions on our future.

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