VR based interactive remote experience of rainforests

The objective of this user case is to make the interior unpolluted areas of a rainforest a part of life of a larger international community while generating subscription income for local communities. Travels to Borneo rainforest (Kalimantan), Indonesia and discussions with local communities and scientists at the Indonesian Institute of Science and Technology (LIPI), Bandung, helped to identify the commercial opportunity of developing technologies to allow users to employ multimodal VR solutions to explore, experience and analyse natural scenes and sounds remotely.

 
 
Rainforest

The island of Borneo is widely known by highly-complex tropical rainforest. A part of the island is Indonesian’s territory, namely Kalimantan. The island is not only rich in flora (medicinal plants, dipterocarp trees, and local fruits trees) and fauna (birds, primates, insects, mammals, and reptiles), but also has a scenic landscape. The proposed study will take place in South Kalimantan, which is a famous land for coal mining. At the same time, the needs of people for exposure to nature is rising due to a good economic growth of the country, and the advancement of technology.

 
 

In many cases, it is difficult to access the interior scenic parts of the rainforest. Our expedition took 7-hours to reach the peripheral wildlife monitoring stations. Therefore only a few people can have a physical ecotourism experience. Many ideas could be developed to provide tourists to experience Borneo tropical rain-forest, without visiting directly to the forest areas. It could be conducted with tele-presence robotic eco-tourism. This technology provides an advanced facility, where tourists only sit in the studios or in front of their laptop, access the system, and then enjoy the experience of Borneo’s forests, such as living with the local people, watching animals and trees/flowers, hearing sounds of birds and insects, and so on. This breakthrough idea might support sustainability of Borneo tropical rain-forests.

Imperial College has recently developed a cost-effective, robust, real-time and autonomous monitoring system[1][2] which is currently installed in Borneo at the SAFE Project locations (https://www.safeproject.net/). This system will be expanded. Hardware – both audio and video 3D monitoring will be available, as well as other sensing capabilities (e.g. temperature, humidity, etc.). A network of ropes will allow each system to be remotely repositioned under the canopy. Software - a web portal will be created where users can remotely control the system, experience real-time and recorded immersive video and audio, and download the data stream for research purposes.

Advancements in the 3D audio and video experience will be made, as well as in the data transmission and autonomous powering of the remote devices. LIPI will work in collaboration with Kalimantan forestry department and local communities to design the infrastructure using locally available material and setup a pilot VR experience lab at LIPI, Bandung.