Can we create empathy in our community for our planet through educational AR?
An unprecedented experience launched this morning at the Singapore ArtScience Museum, the result of collaborative work between WWF, Netflix, Google and Phoria. We attended the private preview and have the privilege of sharing this experience with you.
The launch opened with a specialist panel discussing the purpose and making of the experience that has taken a total of 4 years, from idea to film, to technology development and installation.
We heard the passion in making conservation more than just a conversation from Kim Stengert Chief, Strategic Communications and External Relations for World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore; it's alarming to know that since the 1970s we have lost 60% of wildlife populations while roughly half of all surveyed people do not understand the relationship human health and future has to wildlife and habitat conservation.
The gap will be greater as populations increasingly live in urban environments, disconnected from nature and our reliance on it for food, medicine and life, something which Miguel de Andrés-Clavera, Head of Creative Technology of Google APAC hopes to bridge through bringing nature to the city dwellers. AR paired with incredible resolution IMAX-style projections and spatial soundscapes generates a more immersive experience whereby the spectator becomes an actor in taking care of the planet. The visuals are taken from Our Planet, an eight-part series from the creators of the award-winning series Planet Earth, in collaboration with Silverback Films and WWF, that showcases the planet's most fragile and spectacular habitats, using the latest in filming technology for a new eye on earth. We got to see a behind the scenes of how the filming of ice melting in Greenland was done, and appreciate the time, patience and boldness of the teams who waiting weeks for the perfect shot and get so close they are just metres away from falling ice caps.... A risky business for the passionate people only and a reminder that nature is the hardest of models. Had they run out of time for that specific moment to happen, they'd have had to wait the following year to return and try again.
The series Our Planet comes out today to the public on Netflix, of which the Vice President of Communications, Jessica Lee, explained is an incredible way to spread the message to a maximum audience. Much more so than on a TV channel or cinema, as Netflix enables viewing on demand, forever.
The installation took 9 months of work with the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, represented at the event by Executive Director Honor Harger, and in an effort to make this the most scalable exhibition, the engineering team at PHORIA, under CEO Trent Clews-de Castella, worked hard to make it a modular installation that could pop-up anywhere in the world. Compared to the initial plan, they reduced their material consumption by over 60% until they ended up with a compact red box that contains all the flat-packed elements, ready to send for a new home.
The REWILD Our Planet Experience
It started off with a presentation of the different types of wilderness we could explore through the experience, illustrated by the projection on the wall and simultaneously on the mini floating rotating planet that suddenly appeared on my device. We could only go in groups of 10 to maintain the quality of the graphics, and with a device in hand we chose an area on the planet we wished to know more about and have an impact on. The test was set to forests for the purpose of ease of demonstration, and the voice of David Attenborough could be heard. We saw Borneo lose 75% of its forests on the projection ahead of us, while suddenly, through our device, we could see the clearing of the lush forests under our feet turn brown from deforestation.
We next had the opportunity to re-wild our forests, using the device as we walked around to replant trees, collectively, with other users in the room doing the same thing. The intention was to build a sense of collaborative effort, and to see how strangers would interact if they shared a common goal. Once the forest was restored, birds suddenly flew in the skies in our device again... a sign, as Sir Attenborough reminded us, that the habitat was in good health.
The last part of the experience included the invitation to sign a pledge for conservation, via contributing to the "Voice for the Planet" campaign which you can view here. While the little hovering planet on our device didn't yet have too many lights (a light = a voice), we hope that by the end of the exhibition's world tour it will shine bright with millions of voices.
What? REWILD Our Planet in Singapore
Where? Inspiration Gallery, Level 4 - ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
10am to 7pm daily
When? From 6 April to 2 June 2019
How much? Free admission
And? Sessions are 10 mins with maximum capacity of 20 participants per session (arrive early to avoid a queue) and booking is required. Book here
WORDS FROM THE PARTNERS
Kim Stengert, Chief, Strategic Communications and External Relations, WWF-Singapore said: “Global wildlife populations have declined by 60 percent in the last 40 years due to unsustainable human activity, which impacts the very natural systems that our survival depends on. We need to not just stop, but reverse, the loss of nature. Bringing the challenges and solutions to life through REWILD Our Planet will help people around the world understand that they have a shared responsibility to act and protect nature. The powerful message conveyed dovetails with a unique opportunity to call for urgent action to protect the one place we call home, sending the clear message that it is no longer acceptable to continue to destroy our environment.”
Miguel de Andrés-Clavera, Head of Creative Technology of Google APAC said: “AR brings vision to computing. It can enable our computers to perceive the world like we do and display information immersively, in context of the world. ARCore provides simple, yet powerful tools for building perceptive, immersive and accessible AR experiences such as REWILD Our Planet to connect people with nature and each other. With 250 million devices now supporting ARCore, developers like PHORIA can bring these important and meaningful experiences to an even larger and growing user base.”
Jessica Lee, Vice President of Communications for Netflix said: “Our Planet is the definitive nature documentary event of our time and Netflix’s most ambitious documentary project to date. We are proud to bring great and vital content like this to millions of people worldwide, informing and inspiring them towards taking action for the greater good. With REWILD Our Planet, we are taking this one step further by showing how stories can come to life in a way that spurs us all to help improve our environment. We couldn’t be more delighted to do this in concert with amazing partners like WWF, Google, PHORIA and ArtScience Museum of Singapore.”
ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM AT MARINA BAY SANDS
Honor Harger, Executive Director of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands said: “REWILD Our Planet is an immersive and interactive exhibition that shows how climate change impacts all living creatures. It uses cutting edge technology to transport visitors to some of the world’s most jaw-dropping landscapes. REWILD Our Planet follows up on what we did together with WWF and Google with Into The Wild, our augmented reality experience about rainforests in South East Asia. The users of that project have so far planted over 10,000 trees in Sumatra. REWILD Our Planet is even more ambitious. It combines art and technology to encourage all of us to play an active role in the conservation of our world.”
Trent Clews-de Castella, CEO of PHORIA said: “REWILD Our Planet showcases how AR has the power to build bridges between people and the places they love. This evocative experience emphasises the connection between human beings and our environment. It generates a sense of presence and interactivity for every individual user. Building this exhibition with Netflix and Google and combining it with compassion-driven narrative from WWF demonstrates how emerging XR technologies will transform the social impact sector for good.”