Immersion in nature is as much relaxing as it is intended to be educational. theBlu is a virtual reality experience intended to relax, educate, and connect the viewer to the ocean and the diverse life that lives within it. Director Jake Rowell directed and premiered three immersive episodes of theBlu at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016, marketing it as a unique experience to bring a deep sense of connection and calm that nature can provide. There are three episodes in the series that viewers enjoy. The first is about a whale encounter; viewers see the massive 80 ft Humpback Whale glide through the water, and at one point, come eye to eye with it. The experience is actually based on one hand by executive producer Neville Spiteri, who described the experience as nothing short of transcendent. The second episode exposes the viewer to the vibrant, transient life of coral reef species. Turtles, beautiful fish, sharks and all other manners of life within the coral reefs have defined migratory patterns, and this episode captures that transition. The final episode “dives deep” by going into the dark, shadowy deep ocean. Translucent, ghostly creatures flit along in the dark. Throughout the episodes, viewers can adjust the speed of their experience, take pictures, “investigate” certain species, and also change the lighting and sound of each episode to be either relaxing/meditative or dynamic. Like many other VR experiences that use nature, there is the risk that it will build a false sense of security in the viewer that these species and their habitats are safe when often the opposite is true. Immersive and educational visual tools that showcase nature, while often artful and evocative, need to be conscientious of how they might be contributing to that false sense of security.


Biodiversity, Immersive Technology, Psychology