Envisioning Corals: a Study on the use of a Virtual Reality (VR) application for raising awareness with respect to environmental issues and climate change
Being climate change one of the major concerns that humanity needs to address, the necessity for an efficient and innovative way of communicating sustainable themes to the public has risen. Virtual Reality has been identified as a new form of communication, also in the field of environmental protection, with promising results. A valid strategy in this field seems to be the reduction of “Psychological Distance” between the effects of climate change and people’s mental representations. Virtual Reality allows users to directly experience the consequences of pollution thanks to its immersive properties.
Thus, through a multidisciplinary approach, we developed a Virtual Reality application (i.e., Envisioning Corals) representing a coral reef in which users impersonate the avatar of a coral, an hermit crab or a sea turtle. Through their avatars, users could listen to educational audio regarding the reef’s biodiversity, play a mini-game and see the progressive bleaching of the barrier.
We’ve been able to collect responses from 179 users of different ages (18-89 y.o.), balanced in gender, during a dissemination event. Results showed an overall high level of usability for our application (910 from both the hedonic and pragmatic points of view. The level of identification with the avatars has been perceived at an intermediate level by the majority of our participants. Whilst qualitative feedback described our virtual experience as mostly interesting, engaging and immersive.
In conclusion, Envisioning Corals would seem to be an innovative instrument able to communicate coral bleaching through an immersive medium. Our VR game allowed participants to experience firsthand the impact of rising temperatures on marine wildlife and biodiversity. Further studies will aim at assessing the level of information gain coming from this environment and the impact of the ecological message that it aims to transmit.
Would you like to participate in this project? If you are interested, feel free to contact the study leader, Dr. Monica Clerici email@example.com