Stanford Shows You the Horrors of Ocean Acidification in Virtual Reality

Stanford Virtual Reality Ocean

It can be hard to visualize how pollution damages our environment. That’s why Stanford University has turned to virtual reality to teach people about the dangers of ocean acidification in a new 360º experience.

Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson of the university’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab says it’s not just something you watch, but something “you’re doing.”

“You learn by doing,” Balienson said, according to Stanford University. “These are magic, teachable moments.”

First, the experience exposes you to noxious carbon dioxide fumes seeping from cars in heavy traffic. Then, you’re taken under the sea where you witness coral lose vitality and suffer from acidic water. Narrators — including Stanford professors — explain what’s happening and tell you to count the marine species around you.

The journey sheds light on the not well-known phenomenon of ocean acidification — the decrease of the ocean’s pH caused by increased carbon dioxide — that threatens coral reefs and marine life. The coral’s ability to build calcium carbonate skeletons and shells are especially vulnerable to acidification.

Stanford University ocean acidfication

Stanford University biological sciences professor Dr. Fio Micheli is one of your guides. Credit: Virtual Human Interaction Lab

Stanford University research says virtual reality is impacting how people view the real world. An earlier (and simpler) version of the experience spurred more empathy and concern from people about their carbon footprint, according to a Stanford University study published in August.

Could virtual reality be the key to making us more in tune with nature? The non-profit Nature Conservancy is also using VR to show people the issues facing our environment.

Over the course of two years, Bailenson worked with marine biologists Fiorenza Micheli and Kristy Kroeker and Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Roy Pea to build the 360º immersion. You can watch it below.

About the Scout

Dieter Holger

Dieter is a technology journalist reporting for VRScout out of London. Send tips to and follow him on Twitter @dieterholger.

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