New Virtual Reality App Brings Climate Impacts & Action to Life in San Francisco

Imagine some of San Francisco’s most iconic locations submerged in water. Hard to picture? An innovative new campaign aimed at raising awareness around sea level rise is helping San Franciscans envision what things could look like without action to address climate change.

Launched in early December, Look Ahead – San Francisco uses a customized virtual reality app to give the public a first-person look at future sea level rise in three locations in San Francisco – the Embarcadero, Mission Creek and Heron’s Head Park – as well as how those sites stand to benefit from climate solutions. 

“The launch of the Look Ahead SF campaign and virtual reality app provides a new way for our City to raise awareness about future sea level rise and involve community members in efforts to increase our resilience and meet our climate action goals,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee.

Developed by the nonprofit Climate Access in partnership with the City and County of San Francisco, the Look Ahead app downloads onto smartphones or tablets and provides a 360-degree tour of the affected landscapes. Users can access the app via Google Play or the Apple App Store.

The Look Ahead app also makes it easy to sign up for more information and invitations to city events, and take steps to reduce risks from flooding as well as help cut the carbon emissions driving climate change including switching to 100% renewable energy via the City’s SuperGreen service. 

“Virtual reality provides a powerful tool for communicating about climate risks and motivating action. The Look Ahead app makes it easy to understand what’s at stake and what’s possible, and for San Franciscans to share their opinions and get involved.”  – Cara Pike, Climate Access.

Climate Access officially launched the Look Ahead app and campaign on Dec. 5 with a kickoff event at the Embarcadero site. The event included a media event with speakers from Climate Access, the City of San Francisco and project partners, and include a live demonstration of the technology.

Climate Access worked with:

  • Tactic to develop the Look Ahead app and virtual reality scenarios
  • Nate Kauffman from the Climate Infrastructure + Resources Group on the conception of the scenarios
  • Nutter Consulting on the creation of the Look Ahead outreach campaign

Climate Access is collaborating with Susanne Moser of Dr. Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, and Christa Daniels of Antioch University to test the use of virtual reality in climate outreach through this project. Funding for Look Ahead was provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


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