Main Area
Space-Earth Interactions


Project Name
Immersive virtual reality environments to evaluate audience attitudes about science communication projects: a pilot study of deep sea ecosystems




Carla Morais
Principal Investigator
in Portugal



Lucy Atkinson
Principal Investigator
in Austin

Digital Media
Immersive virtual environment
Science Communication
Evaluation methods

Evaluation has moved up the agenda in science communication. However, some procedures, while available, may be too obtrusive to use recursively in science centers and/or conflict with science center visitors’ agendas. Our idea is to develop a non-obtrusive, valid and replicable method to evaluate audience attitudes about science communication projects through an immersive virtual reality environment that can improve exhibitions while educating and empowering citizens. We will embrace the Azores International Research Center agenda, specifically, deep sea ecosystems sustainability, by producing new digital content and carrying out pilot studies in local and national science centers. The immersive virtual reality environment will have two modalities: for one person (individual condition) and for a group of individuals (collective condition), that will be supported by a game-based approach and multilinear storytelling. The journey will take visitors into extreme deep sea conditions, scaffolded according to three levels - a) awareness, b) understanding and c) engagement - regarding science/technology processes and contents: In the individual condition, the environment consists of a capsule with head-mounted displays and headphones to provide an immersive experience. In the collective condition, the digital environment will be projected fulldome in a hemisphere room. In both cases, visitors will apply for a passport, choose a character and a mission. The difference is that in the individual condition the environment responds directly to the visitor’s actions while in the collective condition it will mirror the consequences of the majority of choices. At the end, visitors receive a “deep-sea-gram”, which is a short summary of their path through the game. More than delivering stories, the “deep-sea-gram” is expected to push visitors to create and share their own stories about their experience and to signify their relationship with the scientific endeavour. To develop a comparative framework, we will run several experiments to validate the method via within- and between-subjects plans.

Leading Institution
Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto (FCUP)

Participating Institutions
Asscoiação para a Promoção de Investigação em Design e Arte (ESAD IDEA)
Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (CA/UP)

Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (FEUP)
Sociedade Afonso Chaves (SAC)

12 months