Using Virtual Reality To Save Wildlife May Be VR’s Most Noble Use Yet

If you want people to care about something then you need to give them a reason to care and the first step is exposure. It’s easy to tell the public that many of our planet’s species are facing extinction, but showing people by transporting them to the habitats these animals call home isn’t easy. After all, most people simply don’t have the means to go on an African safari.

That’s where a new project using virtual reality comes into play. Visitors to
Jardin d’Acclimatation , Paris’ oldest theme park, are now being welcomed into a new exhibit called Wild Immersion that gives them a 360 degree view of some of the world’s most remote places and the wildlife that lives there. Combining the VR headsets with moving seats, visitors are practically teleported into landscapes most people have only seen in the pages of National Geographic.

The goal of the project is to put “people into the wild so that they understand the importance of preserving biodiversity,” project founder Adrien Moisson said at last month’s launch. Famed British primatologist Jane Goodall is one of the project’s sponsors and her institute worked with Moisson, a former veterinarian, to find a way that technology could be used to take people to these exotic locations, while leaving a completely zero carbon footprint.

Moisson began gathering footage of wildlife from around the planet using 360 degree cameras and documenting hours of footage. He eventually accumulated over 200 species across 40 different countries. There were a few mishaps along the way though. For example, a curious lion ate one of his cameras and an elephant crushed another. In the end though, Moisson was able to edit the footage that at times had him face-to-face with deadly snakes into six productions to be shown in the Wild Immersion’s exhibit.

So far, the Moisson’s films and the exhibit have been wildly popular with the park’s visitors. “People have to love nature and animals in their natural environment,” Moisson said. Visitors to the park who watch all six films are virtually transported to every type of natural environment on the planet from the bush of Tanzania to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to the tundra of the Arctic. While the VR experience is of course great fun and entertaining for all, the real goal is that each person walks away with a little more appreciation for Earth’s many threatened species and a desire to protect them for future generations.

“What we want to do with this attraction is to fill our visitors with wonder and to raise awareness as much as possible to the urgency and necessity to preserve wildlife,” Moisson said.

Photo credits: Jardin d’Acclimatation

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