Rapid urbanization inadvertently separates people from the natural landscapes in which we evolved. This disconnect can impact human health and cognitive functioning by exposing people to increased levels of pollution and limiting people’s opportunities for physical activity. Built environment researchers may prevent the negative effects of urbanization through studying and providing empirical based recommendations for green infrastructure, such as nature parks, bioswales, green walls, and street trees. Determining which infrastructure elements improve health and wellbeing for their clients and future users is challenging, however. Researchers can use virtual reality (VR) to compare the benefits of different infrastructure elements to inform design interventions. VR can require relatively little cost and technical expertise. Users are transported into immersive virtual worlds where their psychological and physiological responses can be collected to predict the long-term health and cognitive functioning impacts of each design option. In the current talk, we provide a methodological overview of VR systems, content creation, study design, health outcome measurement, and safety recommendations for the landscape architect/researcher. Our goal is to provide the reader with an understanding of how VR may be employed as a research and therapeutic tool for improving health outcomes related to green infrastructure as well as to provide an elementary set of tools and knowledge to use VR in their research/practice.
Dr. Browning’s 14-year research career encompasses three domains (nature, health, and virtual reality [VR]) and the intersections between them. He holds degrees in related fields from Oberlin College, Virginia Tech, and Yale University and has been published nearly 50 peer-reviewed scientific articles. He currently directs the Virtual Reality & Nature Lab, which he founded at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 and continues to direct at Clemson University, where he is an assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. His lab has two areas of focus: (1) conducting basic and applied research on the therapeutic effects of simulated natural environments on human health and wellbeing; and (2) looking for ways to evaluate and ultimately enhance the frequency, richness, and meaningfulness of nature-based connections and interactions. His work has earned him an international reputation in the health benefits of nature and VR as demonstrated by co-authored journal articles that have been cited in Nature, Science, and PNAS, active collaborations across 15 countries, and invited plenary talks at Yale University, Beijing Forestry University, National Taiwan University, United States Forest Service, National Association for State Parks Directors, and elsewhere. He is listed in the top 15 most productive and cited scholars in nature and health globally based on recent PubMed metrics.
Duration: 40-50 mins for lecture and 10-15 mins for Q&A
The lecture will be live-streamed on the following platforms:
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