The Herman Trend Alert
October 10, 2018
The very compassionate among us have visited zoos and felt sorry for the animals, caged and/or forced to live in small spaces. Now, China has created a solution for animals and people benefitting both.
China's poor track record
The populous country of China has a history of poorly-funded animal exhibits that often demonstrated little concern for animal welfare. Some zoos have even tricked visitors into paying entrance fees by pretending that domestic animals were exotic wild ones.
A digital solution that saves animals and engages people
Perhaps, the animal welfare proponents were able to convince Chinese leaders to stop subjecting endangered creatures to horrible living conditions? Or perhaps, one of the scientists just realized it would just be a smart idea to replace the animals with their authentic digital recreations?
China's first "VR Zoo"
Using AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), and holographic laser projection exhibits, Guangzhou Zoo's VR exhibit replaces wild animals with digital ones. Provided with VR headsets, visitors enter this next generation zoo experience. Using these headsets with their smartphones, guests are able to view interactive exhibits of lions, monkeys, elephants, and various other wild animals. The animals feed, breed, play, and prey within their respective habitats.
Exposure without damage to wildlife
By employing immersion technologies, including VR, AR, MR (Mixed Reality), 3D projection, and holography, tourists are able to interact with animals without disturbing them.
A reasonable monetary cost
The initial investment for the first phase was 20 million yuan ($3.1 million USD), with an increased outlay planned for phase two. These investments actually make a lot of sense; the exhibit attracted over 20,000 visitors its first day. The Guangzhou Zoo has plans to expand its VR efforts with the launch of a full VR-dedicated zoo in early 2019. In 2019, remote users will be able to enjoy an online version of their VR exhibits.
A model for zoos everywhere
With very few exceptions, like the San Diego Zoo and a handful of wildlife parks, animals will be much better served by being observed in VR, rather than in person. Expect to see VR zoos cropping up all over the world to give more people opportunities to see wild animals "up close and personal".
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