Virtual reality could serve as environmental education tool

Washington: Gaming and virtual reality (VR) could bridge the gap between urban societies and nature, claimed a recent study. The researchers strive to bridge the gap by a new VR game they developed called, Butterfly World 1.0, an adventure game designed to engage its users in learning about insect and plant species.
The study was published in the Journal of Rethinking Ecology.

‘Butterfly World’ draws the players into an immersive virtual environment, where they learn about relationships between butterflies, plants, and invasive species. While exploring the set, they interact and learn about the federally endangered butterfly and other exotic plants inhabiting the dry forest ecosystem.

Other nature-related VR experiences include conservation awareness and educational programs.

According to the authors, VR and serious gaming are “the new frontiers in environmental education” and “present a unique opportunity to interact with and learn about different species and ecosystems.”

The major advantage is that this type of interactive, computer-generated experience allows for people to observe phenomena otherwise impossible or difficult to witness, such as forest succession over long periods of time, rare butterflies in tropical dry forests, or the effects of invasive species against native wildlife.

“Imagine if, instead of opening a textbook, students could open their eyes to a virtual world. We live in a time where experiential learning and stories about different species matter, because how we feel about and connect with these species will determine their continued existence in the present and future. While technology cannot replace actual exposure to the environment, it can provide similar, near-realistic experiences when appropriately implemented,” said the scientists.

In conclusion, researchers noted that the purpose of Butterfly World is to build knowledge, reawaken latent curiosity, and cultivate empathy for insect and ecosystem conservation.