Sharks are majestic creatures, but they have a bad reputation – that they are bloodthirsty monsters. Environmental educators work hard to debunk such myths about them. One approach is to educate the public about how sharks hunt, using their highly developed senses of hearing, smell, sight and feeling.
A new educational tool, the Shark Sense Virtual Reality (VR) experience, designed by Formula D interactive, promises to make this endeavour much more exciting and effective.
With its product, the Cape Town-based design company recently trounced thousands of entries from 46 nations to scoop a prestigious Red Dot Communication Design Award for “uncompromising competency and considerable courage” in its work on this project.
The Shark Sense VR experience, is located in the Save our Seas Shark Education Centre in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. It showcases VR’s potential to transport learners into a world that would otherwise have been impossible for them to experience. Using a virtual reality helmet, that resembles a shark, they undertake a challenging hunt for food from its perspective.
“This application of the innovative VR medium is quite unique and interesting, as it’s focused on education, and not just entertainment,” explains Marco Rosa, MD of Formula D interactive.
“The Save our Seas Shark Education Centre, along with Sunfish Consulting, asked us to come up with an innovative method to illustrate how sharks use their senses to hunt for prey. It was hoped that if the public could understand them better, they would be more inclined to support shark conservation projects.”
Eleanor Yeld Hutchings, manager of the Save our Seas Shark Education Centre, adds: “So far, the feedback we have been receiving on the VR shark senses exhibit has been wonderful. It is very different from anything else on offer, anywhere in the world, and this, together with the immersive user experience with its amazing attention to detail, has really impressed everyone who has used it.”
Recognised for and inspired by VR’s potential, appeal and success as an educational tool, Formula D interactive is currently exploring the application of the shark senses exhibit to other creatures. The objective stays the same: to convey their senses as a learning tool in publicly accessible, informal learning environments such as education centres, science centres and museums.
“Right now we’re working on concepts for bees, ants, eagles, vultures, bats, dolphins and potentially whales. We want to illustrate how amazing these animals are in the way they use their senses to survive. As soon as we get the buy-in from a client, we’ll start building the particular exhibit,” says Rosa.