Marine biologist uses virtual reality to take people on ocean dives


You might say Marine biologist, divemaster and Nationwide Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a little bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her ardour for ocean science to people on dry land in a recent, revolutionary and enjoyable new manner utilizing digital actuality.

Pictures courtesy of Meta’s Group Voices movie collection

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and expertise to offer one-of-a-kind experiential schooling about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a digital underwater journey via the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a information.

Viewers obtained to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles whereas exploring beautiful aquatic landscapes and studying in regards to the essential position our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.

Hydrous then expanded on the thought to develop two extra thrilling augmented adventures utilizing Meta Quest 2 expertise: “Expedition Palau,” a dwell occasion the place audiences can share a “synchronized immersive actuality expertise”, which incorporates dwell narration from Woolsey, and “Discover,” a “CGI expertise” to benefit from the magic of the ocean at house.

“I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to discover and research coral reefs all over the world,” Woolsey stated, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these essential habitats decay so quickly whereas the most recent scientific experiences didn’t clearly result in widespread compassionate motion.

“How can we care about one thing we by no means see or expertise?” she mirrored. As she found, digital actuality can be a robust answer for eliciting empathy. “VR has the power to generate presence and company and make you’re feeling such as you’re there. It is that emotional connection that may bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The mix of digital actuality and the ocean’s pure breathtaking magnificence is, as Woolsey places it, a “match made in heaven” for getting individuals extra engaged in ocean schooling. “Whenever you’re floating you’ll be able to lookup and down and throughout you…seeing a faculty of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like buildings. Slightly than watching a video of a scientist, you get to turn into the scientist.”

Hydrous additionally has particular kits to offer center faculty college students hands-on studying about ocean life. Along with a journal, exercise playing cards and a smartphone VR viewer, every equipment contains lifelike 3D printed mannequin items of a coral reef in order that center faculty college students can strive constructing their very own.

These reef fashions even flip white when temperatures rise contained in the aquarium, which mimics the true “bleaching” that corals endure once they die because of greater than regular ocean temperatures. College students actually do turn into scientists as they determine the right way to convey colour again to their reef.

Whereas it’s true that the well being of our oceans impacts us all, the rising threats our oceans face—air pollution, overfishing, local weather change—don’t at all times have an effect on us on an empathetic stage. By means of the usage of expertise, Woolsey has created an revolutionary technique to join hearts and minds to one of many Earth’s most essential sources, which might encourage actual and lasting change.

“We are able to’t convey everyone to the ocean, however we’re discovering scalable methods to convey the ocean to everybody.”

To study extra about Hydrous, click on right here.


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