SINGAPORE: Marine biology students and conservation volunteers can look forward to exploring coral reefs at Sisters' Islands Marine Park without actually having to go underwater with a new interactive virtual reality (VR) underwater simulation.
Eyes on Habitat: Coral Reefs is a collaboration between local start-up Hiverlab, the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) PIXEL Labs and DHI Water and Environment.
In a joint press release on Wednesday (Feb 15), the developers said the training tool will enhance the training of marine biologists and reef monitoring volunteers as they learn methods in the assessment and monitoring of coral reefs, orientate themselves on monitoring protocols and practise their identification skills in a virtual setting before they embark on actual dives.
Eyes on Habitat: Coral Reefs simulation. (Photos: Hiverlab)
The developers added that currently, instructors have to overcome the limited visibility usually experienced in Singapore waters, as well as the limitation of communication to visual cues and hand signals when training large groups of students or volunteers in habitat monitoring of underwater environments.
During the 30-minute "dive", users will be virtually guided along the reef to identify various marine organisms and can submit their answers using their Samsung VR headsets.
The development of the product took five months to complete and is now in its prototype stage.
A man wearing a VR headset at a demonstration for the prototype. (Photo: Vanessa Lim)
Moving forward, Hiverlab said it is looking at creating a collaborative platform where 3D scans and photogrammetry of corals and reefs can be crowdsourced to recreational divers, marine biologists and non-governmental organisations. This will allow it to cover more coral reefs around the world and create educational programmes or workshops based on the data, it explained.
A standalone prototype of Eyes on Habitat: Coral Reefs will be made available to the public at PIXEL Labs at National Design Centre and Jurong Regional Library in March.