Immersive science for the SDGs


For large-scale societal transformation to sustainability worldviews must change from insular and nationalistic to cosmopolitan and global. People need to reconnect to Earth’s biosphere and one another. Immersive experiences, for example new developments in virtual reality and augmented reality, can leaving deep impressions, create new connections and fill an empathy gap. In addition, in a post truth society where science, the scientific method and facts established beyond dispute within science are dismissed as opinion by politicians and advocates we need to find new ways to connect people to science and instil a fact-based worldview. This is another non-negotiable for transformation to meet the SDGs.



See Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab eg Experiencing nature: Embodying animals in immersive virtual environments increases inclusion of nature in self and involvement with nature. Ahn, S. J., Bostick, J., Ogle, E., Nowak, K., McGillicuddy, K., & Bailenson, J. N. (2016). Experiencing nature: Embodying animals in immersive virtual environments increases inclusion of nature in self and involvement with nature. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.


Describe the co-design process and the intended participants. What sectors or groups do they represent and why are they invited?

We will hold science hackathon focused on delivering the SDGs as part of the VR Science Festival in Stockholm ( The hackathon will bring together scientists and science communicators from Stockholm Resilience Centre, Future Earth, KTH, Stockholm University with leading technology organisations such as Epicenter and Samsung, filmmakers and creatives. The aim is to develop about 8 VR projects focused on the SDGs. We will hold three workshops to develop the projects starting with “360 storytelling” (23 Feb) then “production techniques” (2 March) followed by the hackathon, held 11-12 March. See website for details (


Describe the facilitation of the process.

We will work with professional facilitators to guide participants through the process. We will give people deep immersions in the Anthropocene, social-ecological systems and the SDGs. Plus deep immersions in VR technology and psychology. This will happen in three stages over three weeks. See above for details.


What are the potential innovations/prototypes and impact of these?

We have the potential to develop 8 VR products around the SDGs and some seed funding from technology companies to deliver on these. VR has been described as the “empathy machine”. It can connect and engage people in surprising ways. The organisers have run three hackathons already and resulted in one spin out company employing two people and two VR films to connect people to life and ecosystem services in a favela in Brazil (Gereba, Fortaleza) and planetary boundaries. These films can be distributed online now and downloaded to mobile phones.

The New York Times recently gave away one million VR headsets (Google cardboard) and the big tech companies – Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook – are investing hugely in VR as a game changing new media. Connecting with this sector early means that sustainability and connecting to the biosphere can inform the direction of the leading players in the industry.

Future Earth Media Lab and Stockholm Resilience Centre