Our natural resources have been exploited throughout millennia for better or worse, and allowed the acceleration of human progress and societal change. However in light of accelerating climate change and global modernisation lifting billions out of poverty into industrialised nations, time is becoming limited to steer our planet towards a safer course. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has expanded our already heavily digitized lives, opening the door for new uses of technology, including virtual reality. This tool can pave the way for a novel, exciting and shareable journey addressing environmental issues and draw many more people into this much needed dialogue.
“NEXUS” is a WebXR interactive documentary that explores the connections between energy, food and water on our planet and emphasises the interdependencies between humans and the natural world. Its goal is to house an immersive, artistic and educational virtual world which offers users who may not otherwise engage with environmental sustainability issues the chance to navigate through its complexity and find their own passion and narrative.
The project was founded by a group of researchers from Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy and is now managed under the non-profit organisation name Nexus Vision.
The whole team is composed of a mix of researchers, designers and producers spanning multiple disciplines, all working together to build a diverse knowledge base of resource, climate, biodiversity, human and cultural geographical changes that users can interpret and craft their own meaningful stories.
The water-food-energy nexus impacts human lives and communities and thus is fundamentally a social, political and cultural phenomenon: NEXUS is designed to leverage the immersive tool of VR to attract a diverse user base that can shape and share its own personal views, and contribute to the human connection element.
How it will work:
Nexus phenomena and issues simulated in the web experience will feature real-world case studies, where users can travel from large-scale renewable energy installations in West Africa to rapid urbanisation and bioenergy plantations in Brazil, successive dam building in South-East Asia, industrialised agriculture seen from space in Spain and crop plantations in the middle of the Arabian desert, among many others. Each of these showcases how humans have drastically altered the physical landscape, usually in a bid to maximise (and collaterally lose out on) one or each of water, energy and food resources.
The first VR installation of the project opened at Imperial College London as part of the London Climate Action Week, where interactive VR features were trialed and environmentally-conscious (or curious) guests were excited to take part in the exhibit.
Currently, NEXUS is developing a web-based format of the VR universe to make it accessible for a much wider audience (a WebXR experience can be in fact accessed from any device and can be shared as a normal website). It recently took part in the Innovation Challenge promoted by Garage Stories and CannesXR, one of the world’s leading festivals for films and virtual reality projects.