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Virtual reality vision of Paradise lost

Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) has brought a simulated flood event in Surfers Paradise to virtual life, showing the gradual impact of climate change on the famous glitter strip.

Bond University academics Adrian Carter, Daniel O’Hare, James Birt, Martin Skitmore and Yetindranathsingh Dhunnoo collaborated on the project, first using mobile LiDAR technology to digitally recreate Cavill Avenue.

A flood scenario was then superimposed on the tourist hub and 12 participants wearing VR headsets to navigate the inundated urban environment and interact with virtual elements.

They were then quizzed on the experience, with some saying they experienced fear and apprehension, a cold sensation due to the virtual presence of water and even a feeling they were about to drown.

IVR shot of Surfers Paradie under water

Dr Birt, an Associate Professor of creative media studies, said that despite Australia experiencing numerous major flood events over the past decade, it was clear some participants did not fully grasp how frightening and dangerous a flood event could be.

“Two participants said they appreciated the dynamic nature of the water simulation as it provided a sense of motion and danger that they hadn’t previously associated with flood events,” Dr Birt said.

“A virtual koala even had some participants experiencing sadness when they were unable to help the animal and then ‘lost’ it in the flood waters.

“These are examples of how life-like IVR can feel.”

Dr Birt said IVR could have applications in urban planning and disaster management, and strengthen awareness of climate change.

Severe floods on the Gold Coast have transcended the realms of VR. The city is built on floodplains with 57km of coastline, five rivers and more than 260km of navigable waterways.

“Given the gradual pace of climate change, it’s not always front of mind for Aussies, but IVR gives us a glimpse into what could be our future and it’s important that we are aware of where we are headed so we can prepare,” Dr Birt said.

See the full study here for further information. 

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