Augmented reality's status as a new storytelling medium has already led to the reinvention of filmmaking and journalism.
Now, AR is helping non-profits draw attention to their respective causes.
On Monday, environmental non-profit Sea Shepherd and digital studio Resn launched a web-based augmented reality experience that illustrates the issue of bycatch, a fishing industry term for animals other than the desired species of fish caught by fishing boats. The practice has resulted in more than 11,000 dolphins killed off of France's west coast in 2019 alone.
"Our goal is to shine a light on what bycatch really is: the systematic extermination of sea life," says Rik Campbell, global managing director of Resn, in a statement. "It's the fishing industry's dirty little secret and, for some reason, it's all perfectly legal."
Viewable via iOS and Android mobile browsers, Below the Surface AR begins with a "tiny planet" anchored in the user's environment. Pinching out on the touchscreen zooms into a 360-degree immersive environment that simulates an underwater scene showing dolphins caught in fishing nets, with dead bycatch dolphins discarded by the fishing boat above plummeting to the ocean's depths.
"We're using AR to transpose the ocean's reality to your own," said Simon Jullien, creative director of Resn. "We made it browser-based so there's nothing to download. Unlike a native app, which can leverage existing AR platforms, we developed our own AR approach that could be used in a browser."
Augmented reality has grown in popularity as a means to explore a number of complex issues. For example, Snapchat has helped organizations raise awareness regarding issues such as malaria and climate change, while Magic Leap has served as the medium for exploring homelessness in the US.
Meanwhile, The New York Times, USA Today, and Time have all applied their AR storytelling practice to shed light on air pollution, the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and the Amazon rainforest.
As augmented reality continues to evolve toward mainstream adoption, we can look forward to more sobering AR experiences such as these that illuminate important issues by immersing us in a different reality.
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