Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Pollution Reality

A few months ago I got my first Samsung smartphone, a Galaxy S7. One of the perks of getting this phone at the time was a free Oculus Gear VR- my first virtual reality headset. I’ve been dreaming of VR and AR (Augmented Reality) since the 90’s when I was in elementary school pretending to be a Pokemon trainer with my classmates on the playground. All I wanted was a way for Pokemon to be more solid than just in my imagination. However in the years that I’ve grown up and VR has finally become a consumable reality I’ve realized that I had completely overlooked the immense transformational effect that is possible with VR.

VR is more than about putting yourself in a fantasy world wherever you live. It’s capable of more than just being another gaming device or educational tool. VR is also fantastic as a vacation device. One of the first things that I did when exploring my Oculus Gear’s capabilities was go into Hulu. There they have a large library of 360 videos- and in particular 360 National Geographic videos. My favorite one to go to is that of a Glowworm Cave in New Zealand.

In reality, New Zealand is about 7000 miles away from where I live in Portland, Oregon. A plane trip there would take around 16 or more hours. A really rough estimate puts that at 371,000 pounds of CO2 from that one flight, and of course that would be doubled on the return trip for a rough total of 371 tons of CO2. For comparisons sake the average car is estimated to only produce about 5.2 tons of CO2 per year. Not only has this Oculus Gear saved me the several thousands of dollars that it would take to fly me to New Zealand, it has also helped prevent me from contributing to an added 371 tons of pollution to the environment.

Of course, one could argue that the plans will fly without me, but consider what will happen when VR headsets become as ubiquitous as our TVs and our smartphones (and when the image quality also improves greatly). Thousands and millions of people could then make the choice to see these amazing sights without contributing to global pollution.

Furthermore, thanks to VR I can visit the caves as often as I’d like without ever disturbing that environment. Imagine a future in which there might be thousands of different live streaming 360 VR cameras in natural zones where people might go and experience serene nature without disturbing nature.

I forgot where I read this, but someone once said that the best way to protect nature is to stay away from it. Living in cities is more environmentally friendly than suburbs, staying out of nature preserves is better for them than exploring them, avoiding wildlife keeps them healthier and happier than trying to spy on them. With VR this ideal of experiencing nature while staying separate from it in order to better protect it while still enjoying it becomes ever closer to reality.

And the extra bonus is, I didn’t have to worry about carnivorous worms falling on my head!

VR is going to be a win for humanity and a major win for nature.

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