First-of-Its-Kind Augmented Reality Game Created at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Raises Awareness of Harmful Algae Blooms

Innovative game helps players understand critically important global environmental problem

November 15, 2021


Eco Resilience Games from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has released the first augmented reality (AR) game focusing on the growing issue of harmful algae blooms. Algae Bloom Dynamics uses AR technology to create a stylized photo-realistic, lake-island aquatic ecosystem where users walk around the immersive habitat to discover information that can help find solutions to the human behaviors and environmental factors that cause harmful algae blooms.

The game was developed for use on mobile and tablet devices.

“Algae blooms are an increasing threat to aquatic ecosystems globally,” said Kathleen Ruiz, director of Eco Resilience Games, and an associate professor and one of the co-founders of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer. “With Algae Bloom Dynamics, we’re using advanced game technology to create a virtual world that inspires us to preserve our actual world.”

Designed for users aged 4 years and older, this solo-player interactive game can immerse players in an aquatic ecosystem.  Users point their mobile device at the augmented reality in front of them and walk around the island as if immersed in an interactive sculpture complete with originally composed music and sound, clicking on items to gain information. Moving their phone or tablet below the water line, users find themselves with the fish, zooplankton, and phytoplankton in a crystal-clear, freshwater environment. But when the water becomes green from an algae bloom, players must uncover the source of the problem and find and implement a solution to return the ecosystem to a healthy state.

“Games can be an incredibly powerful tool for educating, enlightening, and activating young and old alike,” Ruiz said. “It is our hope is that Algae Bloom Dynamics will enable people of all ages to learn about ecological issues and climate change in an immersive and visceral way that can help them understand the vital need to work together globally for a sustainable future.”

Algae Bloom Dynamics will be available globally for free download in the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play.

Ruiz will officially launch the game at a release event on Sunday, November 21 beginning at 1 p.m. at miSci, the Museum of Innovation and Science, in Schenectady, N.Y. The event is open to the public and is free with admission to the museum. Health and safety requirements for visitors to the museum include facial coverings and social distancing with others not in your group.

Algae Bloom Dynamics is the latest release from Eco Resilience Games, a transdisciplinary group of Rensselaer faculty and students who are passionate about the environment and making a lasting impact on emerging generations through interactive art installations, virtual reality, AR, emerging genres, and STEAM-education experiences.

Previous releases from Eco Resilience Games include The World of Plankton and Flo: The Watershed Project.

Algae Bloom Dynamics was guided by the research of, and received support from, the Jefferson Project, an environmental monitoring partnership between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM Research, and the Lake George Association. 

Written By Jeanne Hedden Gallagher
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