February 25, 2024

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Australia: VR Enhances Environmental Empathy and Exercise Engagement

Image Credits: Murdoch University, Press Release

In a research initiative co-led by environmental psychologist Dr Sonja Geiger, at Murdoch University, the quest for strategies to galvanise collective action against climate change has taken an unexpected turn toward the realm of virtual reality (VR) technology. Dr Geiger’s research has unveiled an unconventional ally in the fight against the climate crisis – the potential of VR to enhance human empathy towards the environment, ultimately influencing more sustainable behaviour.

In this study, participants were immersed in a transformative VR experience where they assumed the perspective of a tree, beginning their journey as a seed embedded in the soil and evolving into a towering, verdant tree in the heart of an expansive forest.

Throughout this simulation, participants could perceive wildlife, manipulate their virtual limbs now transformed into branches, and survey the natural surroundings. The climax of the experience depicted the forest succumbing to flames, with the tree embodying the participants being consumed by fire, along with the entire ecosystem.

Following this, participants reported a profound sense of connectedness and a perceptible shift in their perspective, having assumed the tree’s point of view. The VR experience prompted contemplation on the intricate relationship between humanity and nature, fostering important emotional shifts towards a greater collective empathy for the natural world.

Dr. Geiger emphasised the significance of these emotional shifts in cultivating a heightened societal awareness of environmental issues. She expressed a desire to contribute to innovative educational approaches for sustainable development that render the decline of nature more palpable and emotionally resonant. The aim is to trigger changes in opinions and behaviours, particularly in critical areas like deforestation and beyond.

The potential impact of this technology extends beyond individual experiences. Dr. Geiger proposed exposing individuals in influential roles within industries with significant climate impacts, such as mining company managers, to this VR experience. The goal is to raise awareness about the tangible environmental repercussions of their operations and stimulate a greater sense of responsibility.

While further research is slated to explore whether this heightened connectedness to nature can lead to sustained pro-environmental behaviours, Dr Geiger highlighted the compelling reactions from participants, suggesting that these findings could contribute valuable psychological insights into systemic change. The marriage of virtual reality and environmental psychology opens up new avenues for fostering a collective commitment to combatting climate change through technology-driven experiences that resonate on an emotional level.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) unveiled findings that may not only revolutionise exercise engagement but also contribute to addressing chronic pain management, OpenGov Asia reported earlier.

Led by PhD candidate Erin MacIntyre and senior researcher Assoc Prof Tasha Stanton, their study introduces an innovative approach that integrates virtual reality (VR) technology with cycling, aiming to enhance the overall exercise experience.

This research used a unique stationary bike system equipped with a head-mounted VR display, demonstrating a remarkable 20% increase in exercise enjoyment and a 15% longer exercise duration when participants engaged in virtual reality-enhanced cycling.

By leveraging the power of virtual reality in the realms of environmental psychology and exercise engagement, researchers are paving the way for transformative approaches that tap into technology to foster empathy for nature and improve exercise adherence—an intersection of innovation with the potential to impact both individual well-being and broader societal challenges.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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