Can you tell us about your upcoming avatar-based educational series for Rift?
Underwater 360 videos can be hit or miss. Once the initial wonderment wears off, people still find entertainment and relaxation, but I think as content creators we can do more to keep our audience engaged and use these opportunities to educate people. I hope to use a photo realistic underwater educator created just for this purpose. This avatar will act as a guide during educational dives in VR, creating a guided nature trail-type experience with a real narrator telling a story about the environment you're visiting. These experiences will start as simple educational stories narrated by the avatar, but as the project matures, I hope to incorporate citizen science into the mix with things like dynamic ‘fish counts’ using gaze detection on photo realistic fish in room scale environments.
Further down the road, a full on diving game would allow us visit user generated levels based on high level photogrammetry (using photos to create realistic maps) of sites normally off-limits to all but the most experienced divers. These could range from dangerous shipwrecks and remote cave dives (some with fewer visitors than outer space), archaeological sites only open to scientists, and even places that no longer exist due to time and tide, environmental changes, or habitat destruction.
You once lectured at a women’s correctional facility—how did you get involved?
A few years back, I stumbled on an article on inmates in solitary, where they were given the choice of 30 minutes “in the yard” or 30 minutes watching nature videos in a place called the “blue room.” The results were dramatic with regards to behavioral issues, with less altercations and aggressive behavior following the blue room experience. I got to thinking: if nature videos can make that kind of difference, could immersion in a 360 nature scene have even greater impact?” I started looking into programs in our regional prison system for something similar, and the closest I could find was the Green Prisons Program where environmental advocates visit a women’s correctional facility and give presentations on environmental opportunities following their release, like volunteering.
At the time, my 360 video collection wasn't ready to show at the facility, but they did invite me to give a presentation on urban stormwater runoff, Seastar wasting disease, and citizen scientists that can help scientists. Now that Oculus Go is available, we're talking about a presentation featuring nature videos (underwater and otherwise) and mixed with education about immersive media, in the event that any of the women are interested in telling a story about their experiences. I hope to facilitate a new nature series at the facility with Oculus Go headsets available at all times so residents can sign up and experience nature more than once or twice a year.