Ecology in VR

1. Overview 

The natural environment of plants and animals across the globe has long been a source of fascination for young minds for generations; while people still love going to learn about animals at the zoo, virtual reality (VR) offers a new way for people to safely explore the ecology of various natural habitats and learn more about nature and our planet. It offers a practical way to experience these things from the safety of a home or classroom. Below are a couple of examples that have shown promise.

2. Shark Week: Operation Apex VR

 Shark Week is one of the most hyped-up animal events in today’s society. Discovery Chanel dedicates a full week to these animals to highlight their amazing lives. And with that celebration they have released a unique experience called Shark Week: Operation Apex in VR.

About the experience and its educational values:

Developed by Curiscope, in partnership with HTC Vive Studios, your mission becomes is to take your research rig out into open sea in search of the largest great white shark ever seen as a part of Shark Week: Operation Apex.

You won’t need real diving experience as you would to actually carry out this mission. You will also assist on scientific expeditions to collect data from the marine life around you and learn about the ocean’s precious ecosystem and our individual impact on it.

Shark Week: Operation Apex will allow you to put on the diving gear and explore the underwater world with the freedom of standing and moving mode. You can experience Operation Apex in seated modes as well.

This experience will also allow you to interact with sharks and many other elusive creatures that are rarely seen outside of their natural habitats. The underwater creatures will have the ability to react to your presence, creating an immersive and enthralling experience.

Discovery stated that all the art and imagery in the game was carefully created to be a realistic as possible. Each of the three underwater environments have been highly researched to provide a compelling simulation of this mysterious world.

Music and Sound:

The sound, voice over and music are all excellent and professionally done. There is a voice over for an introduction and training to familiarize yourself in the environment.

What are others saying?

“It’s as close to living The Blue Planet as I’m going to get…While the game has a clear mission structure, exploration is encouraged, often leading to hidden secrets that provide more information and background for the story. The ocean is beautifully realized with waving kelp forests, open expanses of water, deep sea caves, and plenty of sea life. In the first stage I felt an overwhelming feeling of exposure, like I was somewhere I shouldn’t be. It’s very effective. The best learning experiences are often those where you don’t know you’re learning, and Operation Apex’s conversational message is sufficiently subtle to not be the sole reason for the game’s existence, while at the same time provoking thought. It’s a complex juggling act that Curiscope has managed well.”

Digital Trends 

Final Thoughts:

 If you have an admiration of the ocean and natural world, but going diving is a bit too much for you, or you are just curious about what can be achieved with virtual reality in this area, give this experience a go. It shows another amazing application of virtual reality technology, experience the ocean from the comfort and safety of your own home.

3. Amazon Odyssey VR

Vive Studios and Heavy Iron Studios have launched a project called Amazon Odyssey, a game/ VR experience designed to bring the wonders of the Amazon rainforest to users at home through virtual reality.

About the experience and its educational values:

Featuring four environments based on real world locations within the Amazon rain-forest, the experience provides users with an opportunity to engage in a variety of activities from parachuting to navigating a boat. In Amazon Odyssey, players will explore four interactive environments while engaging in activities such as paragliding above the tree-tops and capturing the local wildlife ecology on film. Amazon Odyssey gets you up close to experience and appreciate the biodiversity of one of nature’s most famous, interesting, and powerful ecosystems.

Amazon Odyssey is also intended to serve as an educational resource in that it comes equipped with an encyclopedia to educate players on the different species of animals and plants which inhabit this terrain. Thanks to its interactive nature, this new offering from Vive Studios demonstrates how VR is being used to educate and expose people to different parts of the world that they may not be able to experience otherwise. Amazon Odyssey is available now via Viveport; Amazon Odyssey is priced at $9.99 USD.

Music and Sound:

The explanatory voice over provides an important educational resource that explains what you are seeing, and the sound work has been praised by reviewers as one of the best aspects of this experience.

What other people are saying? 

There’s so much going on in the first minute that it’s overwhelming, but, after that it becomes a beautiful, educational, and even memorable trip. The boat is fun to drive and keeps new encounters coming at a perfect pace. The rain forest is dense with plant and animal life. The animation looks shoddy at times, but the modeling and audio is excellent. The guiding voice has a perfect tone with a good mix of fun facts and narrating your adventure.

-Steam Store Review

Concluding remarks: 

If ecology and Zoology is interesting to you, it’s well worth checking this out. Going to the Amazon rain forest in real life is a difficult expensive and perhaps dangerous experience, and this gives you a taste of what it might be like from the comfort of your home, all done in an enjoyable and educational way.