Diversity & Inclusion

This traveling exhibit is using immersive experiences to raise awareness about the global water crisis

With design by McLean, Virginia's Cortina Productions, the Global Water Center’s Mobile Discovery Center will start touring the country this spring. Here's a look at how it uses augmented reality and other technology to educate visitors and tell stories.

Inside the Global Water Center's Mobile Discovery Center. (Courtesy photo)

Massive attention has been focused worldwide on climate change, but the global water crisis has seemed very remote and difficult to truly comprehend for many people in developed countries with plentiful and safe water supplies. As a result, educating people properly about the global water crisis and the broader impact of water on life has often been challenging and elusive.

The Global Water Center’s Mobile Discovery Center, which will begin touring the country at the end of April in Orlando, is setting out to change those perceptions by spotlighting the challenges presented by — and solutions to — that crisis. Technology is playing a role, as the Center includes immersive multimedia exhibits and experiences designed by McLean, Virginia-based Cortina Productions, together with the PRD Group. The exhibit underscores how water is interconnected with life, and the need to work together to end the global water crisis, the Global Water Center states.

“The exhibit is expected to travel the U.S. for five years,” said Jim Cortina, principal and director of development for Cortina Productions, who noted that, globally, 2.2 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

“The Global Water Center knows they can’t solve this problem alone,” Cortina said. “They can only solve it through a collaborative effort. As a result, their mission and vision is to lead the way by bringing together water safety groups. Safe drinking water isn’t just critical from a health perspective, it also opens up economic and educational opportunities for people, particularly women, that now spend time every day traveling long distances to get clean water for their families.”

To access immersive experiences at the Mobile Discovery Center, visitors register an RFID bracelet to their email address.

“They select a real-life person affected by the global water crisis as a storyteller to follow throughout the exhibit, and can save different aspects of the program and download additional educational materials, Cortina said. “After registration, visitors are shown an introductory immersive film experience in a dome theater. Then, visitors navigate through three trailer exhibits.”

The first exhibit, called “Water is Life,” incorporates a projection screen with gesture-based technology, which recognizes the visitor’s presence, and opens a portal that shows panoramic scenes from nature, and interesting facts about water.

“This exhibit stresses how essential safe water is to life in many ways,” Cortina said.

“Water for Everyone” uses augmented reality. (Photo courtesy of Global Water Center).

In the second trailer, “Water and People,” visitors hear from storytellers about the lack of safe water in their communities and our reliance on water in all aspects of our daily lives. Visitors also have a chance to participate in a three-person “water challenge” trivia game testing their safe water knowledge, which utilizes sponsorship.

“Sponsors donate money for worthy water causes for every correct answer throughout the day,” Cortina said.

In the third trailer, an augmented reality experience in the exhibit titled “Safe Water for Everyone” is provided on iPad tablets. This opens up portals for the storytellers, as well as showing pieces of equipment the Global Water Center uses to bring safe water to communities in need, said Cortina. In essence, the experience illustrates the journey of “community members from water poverty to well-being because of access to safe water,” according to the Global Water Center. In turn, “the AR interface allows visitors to peel away sides of the equipment, enabling them to look inside the equipment,” Cortina said.

Together, the exhibit offers a look at how immersive tools can help illuminate a global issue, and bring it home to local communities.

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