DC: Diving into Virtual Reality

by Leah Duran

For October’s Mappy hour, participants journeyed halfway around the world — without ever leaving their seats. With headsets provided by Conservation International (CI), members took a virtual reality trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia to tour the world’s most biodiverse reef and hear from the people who explore and depend on this special place every day.

The short film “Valen’s Reef” transports viewers to colorful reefs that represent CI’s 12-year legacy of working to protect the Bird’s Head Seascape alongside the people of West Papua and the government of Indonesia. This moving 360° video letter from a father to his son Valen conveys the father’s hopes for his son’s future, which is entwined with their island home and its continued protection. Even without a headset, you can still watch the film to learn more about this special place and CI’s work to empower community-centered stewardship.

With over 1,000 employees and 2,000 partners, CI works in 30 countries around the globe to protect nature for the benefit of us all using science, policy and partnerships. Since most people will never visit the places CI protects, virtual reality provides an innovative way to experience CI’s work on the ground. CI’s newest VR film invites viewers to go “Under the Canopy” of the Amazon rainforest with members of the Trio indigenous community in Suriname, who are working with CI to protect their forest home.

We couldn’t have asked for a better meeting space to virtually dive into reefs and map out our next international outdoor adventures than Alley, DC’s newest incubator and coworking space. Located downtown on 21st and L, Alley Powered by Verizon leverages the power of community to foster growth and success. Alley even has an in-house polaroid camera, which staff used to take photos of people immersed in VR. Between VR, a fantastic space and free beer from Sierra Nevada, connections and conversations abounded until late in the evening.

Thanks to everyone who joined and made the evening a success!

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