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Multisensory Representation of Air Pollution in Virtual Reality: Lessons from Visual Representation

Pochwatko, Grzegorz; Swidrak, Justyna; Kopec, Wieslaw; Jedrzejewski, Zbigniew; Feledyn, Agata; Vogt, Matthias; Castell, Núria Balaguer; Zagorska, Katarzyna

Publication details

Part of: Digital Interaction and Machine Intelligence. Proceedings of MIDI’2021 – 9th Machine Intelligence and Digital Interaction Conference, December 9-10, 2021, Warsaw, Poland (Springer, 2022)

Pages: 239–247

ISBN: 978-3-031-11431-1

Doi: doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-11432-8_24

The world is facing the problem of anthropogenic climate
change and air pollution. Despite many years of development, already
established methods of influencing behaviour remain ineffective. The
effect of such interventions is very often a declaration of behaviour change
that is not followed by actual action. Moreover, despite intensive informa-
tion campaigns, many people still do not have adequate knowledge on the
subject, are not aware of the problem or, worse, deny its existence. Pre-
vious attempts to introduce real change were based on providing infor-
mation, persuasion or visualisation. We propose the use of multi-sensory
virtual reality to investigate the problem more thoroughly and then design
appropriate solutions. In this paper, we introduce a new immersive virtual
environment that combines free exploration with a high level of experi-
mental control, physiological and behavioural measures. It was created on
the basis of transdisciplinary scientific cooperation, participatory design
and research. We used the unique features of virtual environments to
reverse and expand the idea of pollution pods by Pinsky. Instead of closing
participants in small domes filled with chemical substances imitating pol-
lution, we made it possible for them to freely explore an open environment
- admiring the panorama of a small town from the observation deck located
on a nearby hill. Virtual reality technology enables the manipulation of
representations of air pollution, the sensory modalities with which they are
transmitted (visual, auditory, tactile and smell stimuli) and their intensity.
Participants’ reactions from the initial tests of the application showed that
it is a promising solution. We present the possibilities of applying the new
solution in psychological research and its further design and development
opportunities in collaboration with communities and other stakeholders
in the spirit of citizen science.