“Mangrove City“, a VR experience geared towards educating middle schoolers on the crucial role mangrove forests in protecting coastal communities and mitigating climate change, took home the XR prize for the Educate category at the AWE 2023 Awards. This collaborative project was submitted as part of the “XR Challenge: Fight Climate Change.”
IDSC Creative Technologies Director Kim Grinfeder, (also Department Chair and Associate Professor of the School of Communication’s Interactive Media program and the U’s XR Initiative) says “Immersive Media is interdisciplinary by nature and this project shows how we need to break down some of the curricular barriers at the University to accomplish something like this. Students from across campus came together to contribute to this project and the judges recognized its depth and potential.”
Prof. Grinfeder and students Kumani Riley and Ashay Dave, along with School of Communication + IDSC XR Developer Bryson Rudolph traveled to Santa Clara, California to present Mangrove City to the judges and the audience. Reflecting on the experience, Bryson commented “We were honored to have presented side-by-side with such talented teams from across the globe. It was truly inspiring to see how others are utilizing XR in unique and innovative ways to address difficult real-world issues. The presentations filled us with hope for the continued fight against climate change!”
Ashay Dave who worked on making the experience realistic with sound effects shared his take on attending the event in person. “The Augmented World Expo is the premier convention in Extended Reality, and I’ve learned more about the industry in four days than I possibly could’ve in the last four months. It was an honor meeting the companies at the forefront of this industry, and the sheer number of talented professionals in the field.”
Reflection on her experience, Kumani Riley shared “It was a pleasure working with my team to create a solution to a global issue, climate change, through immersive technology. It showed me that we can transcend the physical boundaries and create immersive experiences that inspire action, amplify awareness, and accelerate the global shift towards a greener, brighter future. Additionally, the event provided me with valuable insights and inspiration, encouraging me to further explore and contribute to the XR ecosystem. Overall, it was a profound learning experience that showed me the transformative power of XR, especially to drive positive change in our world. One of my favorite parts of the attending the conference was testing out the world’s first Augmented Reality laptop, Spacetop, by Sightful.”
From 230 concept submissions to 150 MVP entries, to 90 teams who delivered, the running was whittled down to 11 finalists, and Mangrove City won for the EDUCATE category. See the award presentation at 1:07:48:
Other UM Faculty contributors included Zeven Rodriguez (School of Communication), Ruth Ron (School of Architecture), and Rafael Araujo (Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Ocean Science).
View the Mangrove City promo video here.