How might we use the immersive power of virtual reality to spread awareness about climate change?

Winterfall VR is a virtual reality climate change experience on Google Cardboard. This experience transports the viewer to Alaska's Columbia Glacier and shows the transformation of the glacier every 5 years between 1985 and 2015. Click and drag on the above screen to look around. To view this experience on Google Cardboard, download the the cardboard app, load ixdsaba.github.io on your smartphone's web browser, and click on the lens icon at the bottom right.

 

Research and understanding

Team mate David Al-Ibrahim and I researched climate change on the glacier with the help of NASA's Earth Observatory and Google Earth Engine's Timelapse

Detail 2

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Research: Columbia Glacier's transformation over the years through NASA's Earth Observatory helped us develop visuals

Research: Columbia Glacier's transformation over the years through NASA's Earth Observatory helped us develop visuals

Research: Google Earth's view of the Columbia Glacier gave us perspective images of the glacier

Research: Google Earth's view of the Columbia Glacier gave us perspective images of the glacier

 

Design and Development

Using information from these sources, we created Skyboxes for Google Cardboard and transitioned between them to display the transformation of the Glacier. Skybox images are shaped like an open box, laid flat. This image is then 'folded' or 'wrapped' into the shape of a box, with the viewer inside the box and a 360 viewing experience. We developed the experience using Three.js and WebVR to provide an immersive 360 degree view that the user can control. 

Next Steps

This project gave David and me inspiration to start a kickstarter campaign for a larger project called Catalog.Earth. We have raised $12000 to head to the Columbia Glacier and capture it in 360 video. We will be creating guidelines on how to capture 360 video and allow anyone to submit 360 videos of landscapes around the world to the Catalog.Earth domain. All content on Catalog.Earth will be accessible to anyone under the Creative Commons license for free.

Development: The skyboxes were created using a function called makeSkybox

Development: The skyboxes were created using a function called makeSkybox

What I learned

 

  • Programming (for the first time ever!) in Javascript (Three.js and p5.js), HTML, CSS
  • Understanding the Google Cardboard development environment
  • Understanding Google Cardboard design guidelines
  • Understanding the limitations of Google Cardboard's skybox structure
  • Coding in p5js for practice
  • Writing effective code for optimal device performance