The problem

In the world today, oceans are regulated up to 200 miles from the shore of every country. Beyond 200 miles the ocean becomes international waters or the high seas. This means that there is little to no regulation which can lead to a lot of grey area for the people and countries operating in those waters. 

Up until the late 1900’s, this wasn’t much of a problem but because of advancements in technology, large fishing trawlers can now operate in those waters for long periods of time. Tracking schools of fish and catching them with mile-long nets. In recent years this has started to affect environmental sustainability in the high seas, while also harming the economies of 3rd world countries that rely on the migrating fish.

Obviously, this is a big problem but it is a message that is hard to convey to most people as they cannot see these effects first-hand. This is why Jessica Blythe, a researcher in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, at Brock University, decided to study how using Virtual Reality can affect a person’s view on social issues. Jessica then planned to present her findings and demo the VR experience to United Nations leaders at the 2020 UN meeting where they would discuss signing a new treaty to limit fishing in the high seas. Unfortunately, this academic research presentation and meeting have been put on hold due to COVID-19.

XpertVR’s solution

After speaking with Jessica about the problem and what she was trying to convey, the team at XpertVR came up with the idea to create a narrated experience that puts you in either a utopian or dystopian future of the oceans, set in 2050. 

In the pessimistic future, you are placed on a large fishing trawler, where you learn about why overfishing has become such a big issue while getting a fully immersive feel for the magnitude of fish that are collected. You are then taken underwater where you learn what will happen to the ocean if this problem continues and how it can be stopped. Learning this in a VR environment allows you to see how many species of fish have been affected as well as the small communities that rely on them. Additionally, you learn how Biodiversity has plummeted. And especially how deep-sea habitats have been damaged by bottom trawling and oil extraction. This decline has mainly affected developing nations, who depend on fish for food security. In coastal communities, food security concerns and poverty levels soar.

On the other hand, the optimistic scenario depicts a world focused on environmental sustainability and social equality. The optimistic future shows similar scenes and narration but turns the tables to look at what ocean life could look like if fishing in the high seas was regulated. For example, healthy stocks of tuna, swordfish, sharks and turtles fill the high-sea once again. Increased fish stocks lead to improved catches for coastal populations in developing countries. The levels of food security, well-being and equity are high.

eLearning with VR.

Results & Feedback

The research highlighted that engaging with scenarios can change how people feel about social–ecological systems. Further, the research also highlighted that scenarios can build public empathy for remote natural places. One of the interesting results that came out of the high seas study was that the participants were more empathetic towards nature when they saw a pessimistic scenario of ocean life than when they saw the optimistic scenario. 

Research participants made comments including “that was an incredibly eye-opening experience”, “I would like to stay in the VR environment forever”, and “this is really important”.

Once the project concluded Jessica Blythe, the lead researcher, commented that “the project management was incredibly effective. The {XpertVR} team is responsive, professional and fun to work with!”

In conclusion

As you can see, VR has amazing potential to help transform the eLearning world and  gain insightful behaviour research to create a more engaging, insightful, and productive initiatives. 

If you are looking for virtual solutions, reach out to our team. We would be happy to offer some insights and see how we can support you and your goals.