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Artists, activists, designers, & developers use emerging reality tech to tackle climate change




New York City: 14 September

For twenty hours, a diverse group of people sat together during the “Stories of the Future 2030 NYC” creathon to design, prototype and pitch ideas for how emerging realities such as AR, MR, VR, and AI can foster climate action, and help NYC transition to a greener, more sustainable city. Hosted by Garage Stories and Overview Collective at the RLab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, three teams were chosen out of ten to then share their ideas at a series of events, including the Our Future Festival on governor’s island on the 21st of September, and at the NY Media Lab Summit on the 26th.


The overarching goal of the event was to create momentum and break down silos between climate activists, government, technologists and the creative community. It explored the power of technology to discover unexpected ideas that are unique to each XR medium, while bringing together the brightest minds to actively architect a new future. The solutions-oriented event also identified key ways the group could help specific causes, and stay involved in the climate movement.


“At Overview Collective, we are experimenting with how to unite immersive experiences and in-person community building to foster a more sustainable future.” said Kristin Gutekunst, CEO and co-founder. “In my experience, if you build a platform for change and encourage dialogue that is action oriented, people are enthusiastic to lend their talents. In fact, many are seeking ways to plug into movements for change. We were so encouraged by this first effort with Garage Stories and RLab, and we have already made plans to meet with participants to join the September 20th climate strike together.”


The Creathon began with a series of presentations and a panel that oriented the room to various trends and perspectives in both XR and climate policy. This included a keynote from youth climate activist, Alexandria Villaseñor, who shared her journey into activism and encouraged adults to join the youth climate movement as allies.

Lindsay Clinton from NYC’s Economic Development Cooperation Department, Nicole Crescimanno from Our Climate, and Jon Hackett from Publicis spoke on a panel to highlight trends, challenges and opportunities globally, in NY State, and specifically in New York City with sustainability, XR & storytelling.


“When we first started “Stories for the Future” labs, we focused our labs on HOW to tell stories with XR technologies. It was great; we worked on many cool immersive experiments in film festivals around the world. Eventually we realized that, if we were to start asking ourselves WHAT stories we should be telling - then the shift in focus on HOW to leverage the power of immersive storytelling would immediately follow” said Marta Ordeig, founder of Garage Stories.


The groups were mentored by several leaders, including Casey Rider and Pepin Gelardi from TomorrowLab, who gave a masterclass on how to prototype. Mentors also showed product demos of Magic Leap, Looking Glass, and Depth Kit to actively inspire participants beyond traditional VR storytelling.


The event also set off an important feedback loop as follow up discussions are already planned with members of the panel of judges from Google Creative Lab, Games for Change, NYU Tandon, Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Two Goats, and the presenters who inspired the projects.


Often our future has been imagined by other people for us. With the continuous barrage of bad news about the planet, the future is often depicted and predicted to be dystopian. Although the urgency was not ignored, the event put a positive spin and created an enabling environment to actively build a shared future.


A list of the ideas are as follows:

  • “The Edible Apartment” - using Magic Leap headsets, map your apartment for optimal hydroponic growing; receive direction on the proper system according to light, geolocation and space; & barter w/ neighbors. [Winning idea]

  • “Living City” is an augmented reality powered app that takes you on a guided journeys where action is needed to create a greener NYC. It empowers citizen participation in climate connected and urban planning policy decisions, and includes healthy competition. [Runner up]

  • In “#StrikeWithUsAR”, you can become a virtual ally in protests around the world - being present & active when you’re not able. Inspired by Alexandria Villasenor and Greta Thunberg, your avatar will digitally join movements, and create new communities of connections. [Runner up]

  • “Invisible Water” is a VR exhibit that allows you to pick a virtual closet, representative of your own, then shows the gallons of water used to create that garment. This brings to life scale of water usage in fashion, and encourages sustainable alternatives.

  • Using Magic Leap’s mixed reality technology, “ECO SYNC“ allows users to visit locations on Earth suffering the most from climate change. The experience drives empathy by placing users in the shoes of those most vulnerable, and affected, and suggest actions to lower your footprint

  • “Climate decision storytelling” is mixed reality experience where the player becomes the protagonist. Faced with a variety of options, they are able to see the outcome of their decisions compounded, showing the future effects of their decisions according to the scale of the impact.

  • “ARk” - is an AR interface that empowers people to visualize climate policy by creating overlays of data onto city grids with projections on future impact if these policies are enacted, and how this interacts with climate change.

  • “Fashion Forward” uses an AR app hosted in an interactive AV exhibit to show the impact of fast fashion & learn about sustainable alternatives, such as eco friendly garments, second-hand stores, swaps & shares.

  • “COTU” is an interactive game that will train the next generation - and through them their parents — to improve building sustainability in their own homes using machine learning, AR and a thermal camera.

  • “A Sneaker’s Journey” uses AR to teach about the manufacturing & materials that go into building certain sneakers, & recommends ways of sustainably disposing them.


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About Stories for the Future NYC:

Stories of the Future is a global series of events that aim to explore the impact that these technologies will have in our lives in the upcoming years with a proactive approach: the future is up to us. The event aims to provide local participants with a hands on experience that allows them to turn their visions into actionable goals, and foster new community connections that ultimately lead to the development of impactful projects. This builds upon previous events organized globally on 2018, yet adds a specific focus on climate action.


About: Overview Collective:

Overview Collective is an educational and vocational platform that brings global, big picture concepts down to Earth. We create fun and engaging initiatives such as hackathons, XR productions and exhibits, escape rooms and games to inspire the next generation to seek green careers and more sustainable lifestyles. Immersive multimedia and offline community building creates momentum and highlight the extraordinary efforts of individuals and organizations who are generating climate friendly solutions while introducing ways to get involved.


About Garage Stories:

Garage Stories is an emerging media content lab born in a Silicon Valley’s Hacker House in 2017 with the aim to develop the language of new mediums and explore their potential with a human centric approach. Garage Stories has organizes labs and workshops around the world (MIT Media Lab, Cannes Film Festival, Sonar+D, Mar de Plata, etc) fostering connections and the development of projects with potential for positive impact. Some of their projects have been presented at TEDx.

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