The Crystal Reef

Co-Directed with Cody Karutz

Produced by Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab

A rocky reef off the coast of Italy demonstrates the future of climate change. Meet Dr. Fio Micheli, the marine scientist who studies this reef, and dive underwater with her to learn about ocean acidification and how human-produced carbon dioxide will turn all the world’s oceans into what scientists are calling “the ocean moonscape.”

The Crystal Reef is a pioneering collaboration between Stanford University and the Hopkins Marine Station under funded research from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment to build interdisciplinary approaches to environmental conservation issues. By combining the virtual reality expertise of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) with the marine science experts of Hopkins, The Crystal Reef tackles communicating climate change in an immersive and scientifically valid way.

Drastic change in conservation behaviors can sometimes require unrealistic access to places or experiences that are impossible for the general public. This is additionally the case in marine science, which suffers from communication problems because many of its ecosystems are only directly accessible to coastal citizens, able scuba divers or aquarium visitors. The complexity of climate change and ocean acidification also makes it difficult for the public to grasp its scope. The Crystal Reef is a story that aims to reduce both of those access barriers. It is a 360-degree virtual reality science story meant to be viewed in the Samsung GearVR headset. Viewers are brought down underwater using virtual reality and presented with a visual metaphor of what the oceans will look like in a future affected by climate change.

Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival | April 2016