VR to help in the fight against plastic soup

Researchers Guido van Koningsbruggen and Tilo Hartmann have joined forces with University of Amsterdam colleague Hande Sungur and have been awarded funding for their research project ‘Diving into Sustainability’. This project will be using virtual reality (VR) as a learning platform to promote sustainable behaviour.

01/02/2020 | 1:10 PM

The research project will use the fund to develop and test a virtual reality application. The VR-app will be sort of an interactive story, where the user first experiences the beauty of the ocean, then dives into the ocean, sees and experience the problem of plastic pollution. He or she will also learns some key facts, and then is able able to help cleaning up the (virtual) ocean. "The application aims to educate and raise awareness for plastic pollution and instigate efficacy by giving users a feeling that they can do something against it.  Because VR’s power lies in creating emotions and experiences, we will most likely emphasize users’ feeling over teaching of hard facts”, says Hartmann.

Hartmann sees VR as an important tool to create awareness for big global issues like climate change. “I think VR is a very exciting new technology, that is finally ready to be used for many different purposes by a large audience. VR leads to these aha-moments among users, because it is quite compelling. One particular strength of VR is that people feel present, as if actually really being there in the shown location. This way, VR can transport people to places, and confront them with things, they normally would not see or witness themselves. This is important in a world in which many urgent problems are distant or complex, so that people don’t directly experience them as problems.”

The researchers  are first developing a prototype version of the VR-application. The scientific advisory in the production process will be from the VU Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (on plastic pollution), as well as Sungur, Van Koningsbruggen and Hartmann on using and experiencing VR.