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You’re floating in a pale blue sky, soft white clouds swirling around you. Straight ahead, a dome suspended in the air offers a bird’s-eye view of a beach. Aquamarine water laps gently against gray stones piled beneath a metal fence, and a disembodied voice asks, “What if you had a crystal ball — and that crystal ball showed you exactly what the oceans, and the world, would look like in a future affected by climate change?”

The scene changes, dropping you onto the beach where you now gaze out at the boat-speckled sea from the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. The voice continues, “What if you could go inside that crystal ball to experience it for yourself? Would you care more then?” 

So begins The Crystal Reef, a 360-degree immersive experience produced by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. As the video goes on, you follow Dr. Fio Micheli, an ocean-acidification researcher from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, onto a boat and then on an underwater dive. You get to see what a healthy, vibrant coral reef looks like, then turn around to find an “ocean moonscape” stripped of life by excess carbon dioxide in the water. T... Read more

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