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High Seas Research

Hardware: Virtual Reality: HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro Eye

 

Industry: Academic Research / Environmental Sustainability

 

Use Case: Academic Research & Presentation Tool

 

Introduction

Brock University & The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre - an academic institution & department in Southern Ontario, well known for its experiential learning and innovative research, approached XpertVR to create a virtual simulation illustrating possible future ocean climates. The project first tested how well virtual reality (VR) can be used to convey social issues and is then being used to present the impact of overfishing to the United Nations.
 

Problem

In the world today, oceans are regulated up to 200 miles from the shore of every country. Beyond 200 miles the ocean becomes international waters or the high seas. This means that there is little to no regulation which can lead to a lot of grey areas for the people and countries operating in those waters. Up until the late 1900s, this wasn’t much of a problem but because of advancements in technology, large fishing trawlers can now operate in those waters for long periods of time. Tracking schools of fish and catching them with mile-long nets. In recent years this has started to affect environmental sustainability in the high seas, while also harming the economies of 3rd world countries that rely on the migrating fish.

 

Obviously, this is a big problem but it is a message that is hard to convey to most people as they can not see these effects first-hand. This is why Jessica Blythe, a researcher in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, at Brock University, decided to study how using Virtual Reality can affect a person’s view on social issues. Jessica then planned to present her findings and demo the VR experience to United Nations leaders at the 2020 UN meeting where they would discuss signing a new treaty to limit fishing in the high seas. Unfortunately, this presentation and meeting have been put on hold due to COVID-19.

 

XpertVR’s Solution

After speaking with Jessica about the problem and what she was trying to convey the team at XpertVR came up with the idea to create a narrated experience that puts you in either a utopian or dystopian future of the oceans, set in 2050. In the dystopian future, you are placed on a large fishing trawler, where you learn about why overfishing has become such a big issue while getting a fully immersive feel for the magnitude of fish that are collected. You are then taken underwater where you learn what will happen to the ocean if this problem continues and how it can be stopped. Learning this in a VR environment allows you to see how many species of fish have been affected as well as the small communities that rely on them. The utopian future shows similar scenes and narration but turns the tables to look at what ocean life could look like if fishing in the high seas was regulated.

 

Results & Feedback (Clutch Review)

To render the first part of the study successful the researchers behind the project wanted to have at least 150 participants go through the VR experience. After just the first day we knew this wouldn’t be a hard goal to meet as many people were interested in participating since Virtual Reality is such a unique experience. Altogether the study was able to collect data from 300+ people, over double the amount needed to consider the project a success. Research participants made comments including "that was an incredibly eye-opening experience", "I would like to stay in the VR environment forever", and "this is really important".

 

Once the project concluded Jessica Blythe, the lead researcher, commented that “the project management was incredibly effective. The {XpertVR} team is responsive, professional and fun to work with!”

Metrics:

Required participants: 150

Final participant count: 300+