Augmented Reality might save our planet

Earlier this week, we talked about photographing climate change, which is a difficult topic to visualize in our everyday lives.

I’ve decide to continue in this vein, this time taking a look at augmented reality, or AR, and how it’s being used to help educate people on climate change. This technology is making massive leaps and bounds at the moment, and if we can understand how we are affecting our environments, it *might* just end up saving us from ourselves.

Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg announced big plans for augmented reality using the Facebook camera. And this is just the beginning of his AR plans – cue the sharks.


A new app was released on Earth Day called ‘After Ice’, created by artist Justin Brice Guariglia. It uses AR, geolocation and NASA climate data to let people know if they will be underwater in the 2080s. I’m in Istanbul, and apparently, the location of my office will be ok but my apartment will be submerged in four feet of water. The app is a bit gimmicky, but the message is serious and terrifying – take a look at what NYC’s Wall Street could look like in 60 years:

Adding to the AR fervor, Neste Corporation recently released an augmented reality gaming platform called EduCycle that is aimed at teaching teenagers how they impact their environment. Their tagline is: “If the environment was a game, would we win?”

(Photo credit Neste Corporation)
(Photo credit Neste Corporation)

And just this past weekend in Boston, there was the first ever VR EcoHack, bringing together over 80 “eco-hackers” to create VR, AR and 360 video content highlighting issues of sustainability and climate change. The co-founders of the event created a completely geeky parody of the Star Wars scene where Princess Leia sends a message to Obi-Wan saying, “you’re our only hope”. It rings true for this event, and I love it. #TotalGeekMoment


And finally, because I do love AR apps, I’m adding my latest SnapChat video that I just took.

There is a lot of potential for social action with AR, and if it can give us a better understanding of our impact on the planet, then we could be looking at a more hopeful, less submerged future.

By Tara Todras-Whitehill

Tara worked as a staff photographer for the Associated Press for four years in the Middle East, covering the uprisings, revolutions and numerous elections in the Arab world. Her photography has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic and Washington Post, among many others. She also works on personal projects focused on women's issues. Her passion is trying to portray strong women changing their lives and the world around them.

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