Scientists Turn to Virtual Reality to Wake Up The Masses on Climate Change


a1It’s one of the bigger political topics of this year’s presidential election, and has driven scientists and political pundits crazy over the last 12-18 months.  What is it?  Climate change.  While Republic Presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump has said that climate change is a Chinese hoax and that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Democrats are ready to do all that they can to make sure that future generations don’t have to deal with the possible negative implications of this ‘human caused’ change to our planet.

While the majority of Americans do believe that we all have some impact on the rate of change that the earth’s climate is currently going through, one group of scientist are driven to convince those, who may be on the fence, that climate change is a real danger, and they are doing it all with virtual reality!  By allowing people to see what the future of our marine ecosystems may look like down the road,  Cody Karutz and the rest of his team at Stanford University have created a VR experience called Crystal Reef, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

“Not everybody lives near an ocean,” Karutz told The Creators Project. “Not everybody gets to scuba dive, but if you can give people access to those experiences, then hopefully that will drastically change their conservation behaviors.”

There is both a passive and an active version of the Crystal Reef experience.  In the passive version, viewers simply following marine scientist Dr. Fiorenza Micheli on a dive where they learn all sorts of useful information related to global warming and climate change, and how human actions are causing this phenomena.  In the active version of the experience, users actually collect virtual samples from within the marine environment, and are able to swim through coral reefs.  Basically the user becomes a researcher who can interact with the virtual environment around them.

“There’s not much being done in virtual reality on the science and conservation side right now, but we’ve been doing VR research for a long time, looking at social behaviors and new interactions that come out of this platform,” Karutz says. “It’s exciting for us, because VR is finally becoming affordable and that really shifts the way we think about using it as a platform. It’s something that could be used in the realm of education, at a museum, or an aquarium.”

Whether or not such a project will help awaken the American people to the dangers of climate change is yet to be see, but Karutz and his fellow researchers hope that eventually most of the American people will realize that they themselves can have a positive impact on the climate, and the lives of future generations, quite easily.  By allowing viewers to experience what the future may actually hold, hopefully many of those viewers will at least do a little bit more research on the actual causes of climate change.   Let’s hear your thoughts on this topic in the VR Fighting Climate Change forum on