A team of UBC researchers, students, designers and artists are creating an interactive 3D game simulation that enables players to walk through their digitally recreated community and see how the day-to-day choices they make could impact their actual environment.
With detailed neighborhood visualization and animation, it predicts alternative climate scenarios that are focused on the flooding risks of Delta, BC.
Led by Aleksandra Dulic, Professor of Interactive Art and Dynamic Media at UBC's Okanagan campus, the "Future Delta" project uses 3D modeling to build a realistic, interactive virtual environment that encompasses state-of-the-art solutions to carbon footprint reduction and flood management.
"The complexity of climate science provides an obstacle for clear communication between researchers and the public that becomes a critical barrier for social change, policy-making and implementation," says Dulic. "It's important to find engaging, direct and innovative ways for researchers, communities and civic leaders to communicate important information about our environment to the public."
Climate change is one of the most urgent issues affecting society. Dulic hopes the recreated digital community will provide a new communication space that enables scientific knowledge transfer, information sharing, and engaging, educational and entertaining way to explore a future climate scenario.
Through multimedia expression and game play, the project goal is to move towards deeper awareness, wider community engagement and sense of urgency, reaching people that climate science often fails to reach, and providing clear choices for feasible local actions.
"The hope is that when people recognize their neighbourhood, their home, or their community, they will feel a personalized connection that helps to accelerate their sense of urgency in making smart environmental choices," says Dulic.
The Future Delta project is a collaborative effort with colleagues Keith Hamel, Professor in the School of Music, and Stephen Sheppard, Professor of Forest Resources Management, from UBC's Vancouver campus.
Funded through an Image, Sound, Text and Technology grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, the real strength of the virtual game is that it allows players to push the boundaries and explore the extremes within a safe environment.
"We are taking complicated science and applying it to the neighbourhood level so people can experience cause and effect and see how their personal choices may impact their own community," says Dulic.
Although this project is specifically aimed at the community of Delta, the idea and technology can be applied to anywhere in the world. In fact, Dulic is looking at creating a 3D game simulation for the BC's Okanagan region, which is prone to drought, and is exploring the possibility of incorporating local Indigenous knowledge about the land and environment into the game play.
"One of the challenges is that to simulate a neighbourhood accurately a large amount of detailed information is required -- from sewer systems and community building blueprints to municipal service information, climate data, GPS mapping and much more.
"If we find this kind of approach helps policy-makers and researchers communicate, or perhaps becomes a useful teaching tool in classrooms, then this research could have many implications."
Dulic will be giving a free public talk on the Future Delta project Thursday, March 10, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the University Centre ballroom (room UNC 200) at the Okanagan campus as part of UBC's Celebrate Research Week.
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