Climate change is adamant, and yet, some people are still having a hard time believing it is happening. Well seeing is believing, and at Stanford, you can use a free virtual reality program to explore a world where climate change kills off coral reefs. The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience, a Virtual Human Interaction Lab, is a free science tool a part of Stanford that transports students to the sea floor then fast-forwards to the end of the century. This is when scientists have predicted that many of the coral reefs we have today are corroding through ocean acidification. The hope is to change people’s point of view and behavior in the world through a virtual reality experience.
The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience is a 360-dregree video project that addresses the problem of global warming and how it impacts the ocean and the lives it caries. It’s also a tool that allows viewers to explore the deep-sea and collect samples.
The simulation starts with putting the user into heavy traffic where they can they follow carbon dioxide molecules. They then float from car tailpipes leading to the sea where they’re absorbed. The user then steps into the waves and moves around the coral as time passes and they get to experience what it’s like as it loses its life and the acidity levels in the water increase. A narrator will explain what’s happening as this happens and tell them to do certain actions, such as a species count.
This software was created in partnership with marine biologists Fiorenza Micheli and Roy Pea from Stanford and Kristy Kroeker, from the University of California. It took two years to recreate a virtual replica of an actual rocky reef that exists around the island of Ischia in Italy where underground volcanic cents have been emitting carbon dioxide into the reef. The data that was collected from this reef has allowed researchers to measure and predict the impact this will have on marine life as time passes.
Lawmakers in Washington DC also got to experience this VR at a non-profit event, Ocean Conservancy. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island states that: “This simulation shows in rich detail the damage carbon pollution inflicts on our oceans. I appreciate the Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience for calling attention to the peril our oceans face and what we must do to protect them.”
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