Museum Virtual Worlds

Bringing Real and Virtual Together

Artist Lynette Wallworth Using AR to Show Coral Adaptation to Climate Change


Yesterday I went to a presentation by Australian artist, Lynette Wallworth, an artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium, who showed us her recent works in which she focuses on a rare astronomical event, the Transit of Venus, as a metaphor for awareness about the rising of sea temperatures in bio-diverse ocean environments–an indicator of global climate change.

A transit of Venus occurs when the planet Venus is aligned between the earth and the Sun.  These alignments occur in pairs that are eight years apart.  The time between transit pairs is over a hundred years.  In our lifetime, the transit of Venus occurred in 2004 and the second transit in this cycle will occur in June of 2012.

In Rekindling Venus, a multi-media work commissioned by the Adelaide Film festival, Lynette examines the history of scientists and explorers around the globe exchanging observations of the transit of Venus in 1761 and in 1769.  She connects the global exchange of information and ideas about the transit in the past to the current exchange of information among scientists and the general public about the issues of climate change facing us now.  The first part of the work, In Plain Sight, is an augmented reality work that uses the mobile AR platform Junaio, to allow people to peer into a 3D virtual world with endangered corals.  She’s collaborating with scientists who study corals in ocean areas where coral bleaching occurs due to elevated sea temperatures and examines coral species that fluoresce under different wavelengths of light.   She discussed how scientists are observing that some species of corals that were not known to fluoresce have been shown to now be exhibiting this phenomena, possibly as an adaptation mechanism to changing climate conditions.  The Junaio AR channel for the work, recognizes posters of endangered coal species and uses this image-based 2D marker approach to show 3D models of corals in their fluorescent state. An element of note in this work are the hotspots on the 3D models which, when activated by touch, display a window with recent elevated sea temperature alerts from NOAA, gathered from locations across the planet. This points to great potential for linking mobile AR experiences to live data sources, and helps connect the viewer to something happening right now.

The Rekindling Venus website counts down to the 2012 transit of Venus, which, along with the installation and mobile exploration of the AR elements, offers a call to action for viewers by engaging them in awareness, investigation, and discussion of critical climate change issues as we witness the upcoming astronomical alignment and understand the global context for shared wonder in natural phenomena and how that can inspire us to combat the climate change issues we face.

Author: Rob Rothfarb

Rob Rothfarb directs Web development at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a museum of science, art, and human perception. He develops online exhibits, educational resources, and technical infrastructure for the museum. He’s interested in the application of interactive media technologies to the development of dynamic, networked content and media infrastructure to support exploration, communication, and learning. His background includes experience in software development, computer graphics, interaction design, and digital video. Rob’s interest in community and interactive 3D technologies led to work with several pioneering virtual world software companies and to interactive multimedia projects for museums including the National Gallery of Art and the National Constitution Center.

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