How are VR technologies making a positive impact on the environment?

Until recently, Virtual Reality (VR) was often talked about as a fun, engaging technology. Now, with COVID-related policies challenging us to work, think and play differently, many of us are immersing ourselves in VR in ways we’ve never thought of before. VR technologies have become essential to deliver business goals – whether it’s for virtual training, a school or university virtual open day, opening up access to tourist attractions through virtual tourism or virtual recruitment. The list is endless. 

The big question is – will they remain as important in post-COVID times?

We believe so. Not just because of their proven cost-effectiveness, efficiency and impact on business performance. But also because of their power to do good for the environment. This, as we all know, is increasingly central to our decision-making. Whether for business or pleasure.

So, what are some of the planet-protecting advantages offered by VR technologies?

Reducing our carbon footprint

At a time that we are forced to limit physical interaction, VR technologies significantly reduce the need for travel – within cities, countries and across the globe. This in turn reduces the spread of diseases, as demonstrated by COVID-19.

Slick, interactive global conferences can take place online, reducing international travel while also cutting back on the major energy consumption and waste often associated with power-gobbling event arenas. Likewise for sporting events. Those that opt to immerse themselves into a football match using VR are contributing to energy, waste and traffic congestion savings.

Checking out schools and universities around the world no longer needs to cost the earth due to hi-tech, interactive Virtual Open Days and Virtual Tours. And what’s more, while saving the planet, our custom-built tours significantly expand the global marketing reach of academic brands and institutions at the touch of a button. The same goes for previewing venues for any significant event.

Even Virtual Training negates the need for travel and paper manuals. This advantage, alongside recent evidence that virtual training is both more effective, and more cost-effective to deploy, than traditional training methods, surely means it’s here to stay.

Reducing physical prototypes in manufacturing 

In manufacturing and design industries, clever Augmented Reality (AR) and VR technologies can test designs and visualise the impact of engineering projects, reducing the number of physical prototypes needed in the design process. This reduces material waste. What’s more, they enable engineers to perfect products and systems – including those designed to fight against environmental deterioration. AR and VR technologies are helping inventions and engineering to become more environmentally sound, and at the same time, more precise, effective and efficient.

Driving awareness, educating and inspiring action on the environment

However, experts believe VR’s most powerful tool in contributing to the environment agenda is through education and behaviour change. VR’s unique ability to turn climate change from something abstract and obscure into something accessible. Something that can be virtually experienced.

This has proven to greatly increase motivation for people to take action. Greenpeace’s use of VR headsets to increase engagement between fundraisers and possible donors doubled the charity’s sign-up rates; a Stanford University study involving a simulation of a coral reef proved VR to be a powerful education tool with a strong effect.

The recent, stunning ‘Meet your Carbon Footprint’ – created by the UN Environment Programme and Sony PlayStation platform ‘Dreams’ – includes a carbon footprint portrayed as an 18-metre-high orange ball of gas. It leads viewers through daily scenes like breakfast that subsequently transforms into a rising sea level. A simultaneously beautiful and frightening experience showing the true scale of emissions and their impact – otherwise “not possible in two dimensions” (Martin Nebelong, the project’s lead illustrator). It compels the viewer to take action in a way never achieved before.

To conclude

Of course, there’s always room to do better. Work continues to make headsets from more environmentally-friendly materials, to use less battery power and less electricity. But the above highlights just some ways in which VR is making a positive global contribution to the environment

At Circus we believe in the power of VR to affect positive change and to deliver top priorities in today’s world – be it high-impact action for the environment or critical business functions in a socially-distanced world. Our virtual brand experiences are based on the same premise as VR’s most powerful contribution to the environment agenda: connecting with people at the visceral level; providing interactive storytelling in ways that are more engaging and persuasive than traditional approaches.

If you’re looking for more information on our virtual services, please contact our award-winning team. They’d be more than happy to help guide you through any questions or concepts.

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