Immersive social VR experience: Drop in the Ocean

Produced by Washington DC based Conservation International and London company Vision3, 'Drop in the Ocean' is a groundbreaking immersive virtual reality experience that took the Tribeca Film Festival by storm following its premiere.

Inspiration came from Vision3 founder Chris Parkes, whose father spent 50 years studying plankton. Chris saw it as an opportunity to reimagine his Dad's work and create a groundbreaking experience around the pollution of our oceans.


The issue How could virtual reality be utilised to immerse people into the ocean, amid the wonders of whale sharks, plankton and jellyfish - and into the heart of plastic pollution crisis plaguing the world’s oceans? The creators wanted to do this without the burden usually associated with tracking such as wearing markers or holding technology.

The solution London mocap company Target3D came onboard to provide this cutting-edge tracking system.


Using an array of 12 RGB video cameras and The Captury Live - an extremely intelligent piece of computer vision and AI software created a system to take 12 video feeds, learn what is a human and track them by looking at colour pixel information, meaning users need only wear a headset.

"We had to be the first to combine the latest HP Reverb headset, using the headsets ‘inside-out’ tracking, with our computer vision twelve camera skeletal tracking," Target3D Co-Founder Ashley Keeler, who supported the team as they showed at Tribeca, explains, "then integrate both of those with show control to drive the unity experience."


"The problem was there was no one to talk to - no help pages to read - as we were probably the first people to do this. We were seriously pushing the boundaries. There was a safe option which we could have gone with but we decided to try and pull it out the bag. As such I've had about 4 hours sleep in two weeks! But seeing the reactions we got, it was worth it. 'Drop in the Ocean' was far the most adventurous VR experience at Tribeca Film Festival."


The result

A playful seven-minute social VR adventure. Shrunk down to about 2 inches tall, participants hitch a ride on a jellyfish as they encounter the mysteries of the deep and experience the plastic pollution crisis from the viewpoint of sea life. Up to four participants then team up to swipe away at the plastic debris that surrounds them.


Drop in the Ocean was shown in the Official Selection at Tribeca Film Festival 2019 and went on show at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Speaking from Tribeca, the abc7 News reporter Sandy Kenyon remarked, "It feels like I'm floating in the water on a jellyfish... oh goodness we're rising to a layer of the surface that's filled with plastic pollution. I see water bottles and spoons and tennis balls."


Watch Drop in the Ocean on YouTube:

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