VR Freek Teunen

Most of us know that virtual reality (VR) can be used for gaming. But, did you know that VR is literally used in every industry nowadays for all kinds of purposes? VR is an interesting new technology that transports a user, often using a VR-headset, to a new location in a new virtual body. That offers a lot of benefits. In my TEDx talk I researched ways how VR could benefit climate change.

The thought I am sharing in my TEDx talk is as follows. Currently, we try to convince people of all the problems we are having with the climate by showing terrifying video’s and statistics on how the earth is warming up. Activists assume that people are willing to change their entire way of living and consuming by this. However I have never heard anyone telling me they have seen a life changing statistic. People do talk about life changing experiences. Since VR is a great tool to simulate experiences, I would argue this is a far more effective tool to make people understand the problems we are facing.

I had a life changing experience myself when I tried VR for the first time at the university I was studying at. I was a guinea pig of a PhD student who was doing a psychological experiment with VR. In this VR environment I was standing in a living room, with a table, a chair, and two people standing in front of me. One was constanty staring at the, the other was slowly moving towards me over time. Until at some point, that person is so close to me. I felt very uncomfortable, so I took a step back.

That experience made me incredibly curious about VR. It was able to make me feel very uncomfortable, by letting someone stand too close to me. While actually, there was no one standing there. It was all a simulation. However, different from a simulation you see on a television screen, this experience made my palms sweaty and was able to give me a specific feeling and emotion. So what if we can use that power of transferring emotions and feelings to let people experience how the earth is doing? And to make people ‘feel’ the need to change?

There are already some great examples of organizations doing that using VR.

VR TREE

VR is a great way to change perspective. What if you could see the rainforest through the ‘eyes’ of a tree? In this experience you grow from a seedling to a full grown tree, until you experience your destiny during deforestation.

Link: https://www.treeofficial.com

The Overview Foundation – SpaceBuzz

When astronauts travel to space and see the earth from a distance, they experience a great sense of urgency to help the earth. This feeling is called the overview effect. A Dutch organization is bringing this experience to earth using VR. Inside a bus shaped as a space shuttle, children can put on a VR headset where they experience a virtual launch to space to see the earth from a distance, so they can experience the overview effect themselves. With that, this organization is creating ‘ambassadors for planet earth’

Link: http://spacebuzz.nl

Coral VR

Around the world, coral is dying (bleaching) rapidly. We can help by investing in research to create more heat resistant coral fast and plant them back into the ocean. According to research, seeing coral in 360 degree motivates people to donate more to charity.

Link: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223631

And an experience you could try yourself: https://thehydro.us

Other great apps to try in VR that might help to motivate people to change behavior and attitude towards climate change and nature:

 

If you want to know more about VR I would encourage you to watch my TEDx when it is uploaded in a few weeks and follow me on LinkedIn.