December 7, 2022

Virtual Reality: a new tool for environmental education

by MaresmeCircular in Consortium

The Maresme Waste Consortium presents an immersive experience with VR headsets to discover the present and future of recycling

The Maresme Waste Consortium presents ‘Maresme Circular Immersive Experience‘, a journey into the present and future of recycling through Virtual Reality that seeks to raise environmental awareness.

With the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headsets with a 5K resolution and a series of virtual flights that generate a highly immersive 3D experience, users can fly over the Maresme Integral Centre for Waste Recovery and enjoy panoramic views of Mataró and a large part of the region, travel into space and land in a sustainable and self-sufficient city of the future. All this in 25 minutes and with the help of an animated drone that, as well as guiding visitors, will teach them concepts such as the circular economy and downcycling.

“Many people think that the problem of waste is solved by recycling, which consists of using things that humans no longer want in order to make new things… But recycling is not the solution to your problems. The solution is to generate less waste!” exclaims the drone, which in a relaxed and friendly tone, urges participants to reflect on responsible consumption and the need to make a commitment with respect to the waste they generate.

Hand tracking to manipulate virtual objects

Thanks to the creative and technological development of Glassworks Barcelona, the immersive experience also incorporates a technique for real-time tracking of the user’s hands – called ‘Hand tracking‘ – which allows the manipulation of virtual objects without any additional device.

For example, during the tour the visitor can take a pile of used plastics (fishing nets, bottles, urban material…) and firstly turn it into chippings, the secondary raw material obtained when recycling plastic; and then transform it into a bench for urban furniture and a sports shoe. In this way, the user virtually experiences the recycling process at first hand.

The immersive technology, developed with the advanced 3D videogame generation system Unreal Engine, and the use of binaural audio designed by the OIDO studio, generates a highly realistic virtual experience.

More than 5,000 users will enjoy the experience this academic year

This immersive journey will be integrated into the environmental education programme of the Maresme Waste Consortium, ‘Un volt als Residus’, and it is estimated that more than 5,000 users will be able to enjoy it this school year alone.

The programme, created in 2013 and aimed at children, young people and adults, encompasses different activities – from an Environmental Classroom and a tour of the Waste Treatment Plant to an immersive experience with virtual reality headsets – that raise awareness of the problems of the production and consumption models that have led to the current climate emergency, and how waste management has a key role to play hand in hand with the co-responsibility of society as a whole to rebuild the future. More than 60,000 people have already participated in the programme.

Students at a school in Maresme trying out the virtual reality goggles / Marga Cruz