One of the common criticisms of XR technology is that people will use it to avoid problems of the real world. We hear it from talking heads, see it in webcomics, and read about it in science fiction. However, the fact is that a lot of XR experiences – and the companies behind them – are dedicated to promoting environmental causes.
In light of World Environment Day on June 5, we’re going to take a look at some recent, current, and upcoming XR initiatives that focus on planetary wellbeing.
What Is World Environment Day?
World Environment Day is a United Nations initiative. From the project’s website, linked above, visitors can find educational and inspirational articles, quizzes, and practical guides on how to help the environment. This year’s World Environment Day focuses on “living sustainably in harmony with nature,” with the slogan “Only One Earth.”
Not all news is good news. So, check out the UN website and, if you get too bummed, duck into XR for some of these upbeat and impactful experiences that can also help you learn and contribute to sustainability initiatives around the world. Once you’re refreshed, go back to the UN website. We can’t solve all of our problems in-headset.
OCAVU’s Partnership With EcoCart
OCAVU, formerly Seek, is a 3D modeling engine. Though the company launched an NFT platform late last year, its main work comes through providing content for e-commerce companies. While some have environmental concerns about energy required to maintain most blockchains, OCAVU is highly committed to the environment.
For one thing, a number of sources – including OCAVU’s recent blog post “How AR Can Help Save the Planet” – say that 3D modeling and XR try-out in commerce reduces emissions by reducing returns by providing shoppers with better product information. Further, earlier this year, OCAVU announced an Environmental, Social, and Governance program with partner EcoCart.
If you’re not familiar, EcoCart works with online retailers to give consumers the option to donate extra money with their purchase that is then used to support projects that offset carbon emissions. Among other benefits, the partnership will help OCAVU to implement their own carbon tracker for their clients similar to the one that EcoCart provides customers.
“Now we are in a place where we can direct our focus to initiatives we believe in by implementing our ESG program,” OCAVU CEO, Jon Cheney, said in a release. “Partnering with EcoCart is the perfect stepping stone towards our goal of creating sustainable engagements with our brand partners. Utilizing these innovative tools can help the e-commerce industry make a meaningful impact.”
Environmental Experiences on Quest (and Beyond)
June 5 is World Environment Day, but April was Earth Month. In honor of Earth Month, Meta released a rolling blog post highlighting a number of environmental VR experiences available in Quest.
Some of these experiences were screenings that happened in Horizon Venues, and so are no longer available. However, most of the experiences are still available downloads, purchases, or ongoing initiatives. That makes this article a great jumping-off point for those looking to find environmental experiences on Earth Day, Environment Day, or any other day.
By the way, not all of these experiences require a Quest headset. Many of them are 360 videos on YouTube that can be experienced on other headsets or even on 2D screens.
Cycling the World With VZfit
VZfit is a full-body VR cardio program by VirZOOM. And, we can trust that they have goals beyond profits – the company and experience landed in ARPost’s 2022 XR Mental Health Awareness Month article. The experience uses imagery from Google Street View to allow runners and bikers to change their scenery when working out indoors.
In addition to the company’s dedication to promoting physical and mental health, they are also passionate about the environment. The company regularly posts “challenges” for their community, which typically involve using scenery from different parts of the world, encouraging exercisers to explore the planet from wherever they are.
In Earth Month, each challenge ride completed by participants was rewarded with a tree planted by various organizations with which VirZOOM partnered. An Environment Day challenge has not been announced as of this writing, however, their Earth Day challenge is extended by another week “in hopes of completing our goal of 2,500 trees planted.” Whether or not the company organizes another tangible initiative like tree planting in the future, the challenge will definitely encourage participants to explore a new corner of our beautiful world.
There’s Only One Earth
There are some pretty fantastical worlds that can be explored through XR. However, the most fantastical world that XR users can explore is the world that we all live in. Whether XR initiatives educate, promote and support causes, reduce carbon footprints, or just encourage us to view the world in new ways, XR works for environmental awareness. Happy World Environment Day in advance.