360° Interactive Research
Communicating research authentically and making it tangible - this is our aim in the Science Communication Project. In the ‘Isodrones 360° Interactive Research Site’ you can independently explore our research site in the tropical dry forest of Costa Rica, where we have been studying where different tree species get their water from since 2018. But what does that even mean? Trees use different water resources and take up water from different depths in the soil. They also can potentially take up groundwater. The 360° Interactive Research Site shows how we investigate these amazing trees, the challenges we face, our personal stories and the scientific results! Immerse yourself: In 9 interactive scenes with explanatory videos, graphics and visualizations of our research data, learn all about our work and even experience a drone flyover in 360°!
What is the 360° Interactive Research Site?
The 360° Interactive Research Site is a new way of experiencing scientific research. Using 360° a virtual reality (VR) headset, you can experience the core research site of our Isodrones Project. In a true 360° environment, you have the chance to meet our team members and learn on their research in the tropical dry forest of Costa Rica, experience how it is to spend 3 months on a research site almost 24/7, see what’s going on apart from research, check out the flora and fauna, and dive deep into our research and findings.
This professional product was initiated with a number of goals: Delivering science to different target groups – scientists but also the interested public and to create a unique experience of how field research is. Finally, it is also our goal to communicate how cool science can be and how important the underground life of trees is for all of us! Our ultimate goal was to not only to realize a virtual tour of the research site, but also to directly integrate real research data at the measuring points, which the user can retrieve. The 360° experience allows not only lay people to get a real impression of the project site and thus a better understanding of our research. It also gives colleagues and partners in science the opportunity to experience our research methods and results in a fascinating way. Especially planned for conferences, where our team has the opportunity at a VR booth to try out mediation methods beyond lectures and posters, to make science tangible and thus to enter into a deeper dialog with interested parties.
How was it produced?
In the beginning, our partners for our Science Communication Project, Christoph Nick from c-studios, was an invaluable partner. Together with them, we tested and purchased equipment, and our creative director Christoph Nick gave our complete team a film / camera and 360° / VR introductory workshop. We then collected ideas on how the interactive research site should look like and which contents we wanted to show and what we wanted the users to experience.
The result was a first concept for an interactive 360° / VR video presentation of the project site and a shooting schedule (this happened at the end of 2020). To obtain input on how realistic our ideas were and if realizing all of our dreams were even possible, we engaged an expert for 360° / VR production. Lukas Thorsson from Filmflow was our partner for the post-production since and he and his team have done an incredible job. Our ultimate goal was to not only to realize a virtual tour of the research site, but also to directly integrate real research data at the measuring points, which the user can retrieve.
But before Lukas could post-process data, it first needed to be recorded. Between February and April, 2021, the Isodrones team had a major field campaign in their core research site in a tropical dry forest in Costa Rica. The team was not only getting their research done - which was a challenging job on its own - but also realized the 360° filming according to the initial concept. For this, the team used the latest version of the GoPro. The greatest challenge was to get the drone overflight done for the 360° project, as the GoPro interfere with some of the sensors that control the drone height above ground. However, the researchers from Isodrones got the job done – not as professional as it would’ve been by hiring a professional team, but that was explicitly our goal. With the basics taught by Christoph, we were perfectly prepared for that.
Back in Germany, the post-processing began, and several iterations of the product were done. In addition to the 360° content, the VR also includes a number of explanatory videos, vlogs and information. Again, this material had to be processes, cut, and finalized (c-Studios). Finally, in 2022, we presented the beta version of the product to students, lecturers and employees of the TU Braunschweig and conducted a survey on their opinions. We were overwhelmed by the positive feedback. After this, the complete team of producers sat together and defined the final adjustments.
And here we are, presenting a novel and innovative science communication product that is unique in its suitability for different audiences! We are genuinely proud and happy with what we created!
How can I experience the 360° Interactive Research Site?
In 2022, we presented the 360° interactive research site at three events: the TU Braunschweig, our home University, with students, lecturers and colleagues; an international scientific conference (‘2nd Workshop on Water Partitioning in Agricultural and Forested Watersheds’) and a large public event of the Volkswagen Foundation, the ‘Fest der Wissenschaft’. If you are interested to present the 360° Interactive Research Site on a similar or different event, do not hesitate to contact us!
You can also find more excerpts from the 360° Interactive Research Site and Isodrones on our Isodrones youtube channel