Researchers develop aquaculture virtual reality tour

Picture credit: Ekaterina Prasolova-Førland

With the help of new 3-D technology, you can go underwater and swim with farmed salmon. Or fly down a ski jump. Or study how brain cells work. This technology originally came out of the gaming world, but is rapidly being developed into an important research tool.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to jump into a salmon pen and see the fish swim around you? Now you can, without ever having to don diving gear or even get wet.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have recently developed an aquaculture simulator that allows you to virtually visit a fish farm. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with Måsøval salmon farms in Frøya, Sør-Trøndelag, on the central Norwegian coast. “This technology might help create interest in aquaculture in the younger generation,” says Ekaterina Prasolova-Førland from NTNU’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management.

The program uses Oculus Rift 3-D goggles, where you can look around a virtual reality just by turning your head, and carry out different actions using a video game controller. Several large companies are investing in this type of technology.

The virtual salmon farm simulator was presented during Ocean Week in Trondheim in the beginning of May. Master’s student Anders Bøe is behind the program. “We’ve also presented the simulator during an open day at NTNU, at the tourist information office, at the science centre and the salmon festival in Frøya. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” says Prasolova-Førland.

Monicha Seternes from Måsøval fish farming industries has spend the past few days presenting the simulator to children on Frøya. It has been a great success, and feedback from the participants has been important to continuing development of the simulator. “We’re working on establishing a centre around the simulator on Frøya, and have ambitions to develop Norway’s first aquaculture simulator for breeding,” says Seternes, who is head of environment and development at Måsøval. “Combined with an actual visit to a fish farm, a similator like this will make it possible to experience a breeding cycle that usually takes 14-22 months in about 45 minutes. This is unique, and will give visitors a completely different view of our work than just a visit to a farm would.”

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