We wanted to use Virtual Reality to give average users and policy makers an entirely new outlook on the effects caused by rising sea levels and climate change, allowing them to travel through time as they experience said effects first hand while being exposed to data that truly represents the scale of the issues humanity is facing today.
What it does
The user is transported to a virtual beach and is presented the option to choose 1 out of 4 different RCP (Representative Concentration Pathways) models, each holding a different set of predictions for the world's sea levels and temperatures from today to 2100. After performing the selection, the users can control a simulation by using a set of floating navigation buttons, which allow them to travel through time at various speeds.
As the years go by, the sea levels undoubtedly begin to rise, and the beach you're on realistically responds to these changes, having its own sea levels affected as well. Throughout the simulation, several bits of data are displayed around a virtual globe showcasing the U.S.'s financial loss, loss of landmass, current sea level change as well as the number of homes lost to flooding (all based off real predictions).
The user is also able to freely rotate the earth using their controllers and change the location of focus to different countries by selecting other markers on the map. The data being displayed around the globe is updated accordingly to reflect the predictions of the country that's currently selected, giving the user a truly global outlook on the issues at hand.
How we built it
We used the Unity3D Game Engine, the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset and a series of credible studies and predictions published within the last 3 years.
Challenges we ran into
Finding meaningful ways to represent data on the Virtual Reality medium was a big challenge, as well as creating a more personal experience that conveys a sense of urgency and allows users to experience the predicted effects first hand.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We told the story of the Earth's rising oceans compellingly, combining interesting visuals, unique interaction and real data. We created an entirely new way of visualizing information that's truly global, personal and immersive. We believe BluePlanet can be used by the masses to raise awareness as well as by policy makers for more informed decision-making.
What we learned
We learned a ton about Unity development as well as the theory behind earth's rising sea levels.
What's next for BluePlanet
Our project also has tons of room to grow - nothing stops us from adding more countries, mathematical models, predictions and interactions to create an even deeper experience. The concepts we created can also be used to illustrate other types of natural changes, like the effects of deforestation and desertification over long periods of time.