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Virtual Reality Game Brings Underwater Education to Life

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The game allows you to research and interact with virtual reality creatures to learn about ocean conservation

A small British startup company has launched their first Virtual Reality underwater exploration and adventure game - Operation Apex.

Brighton based Curiscope, founded in 2016 by Ed Barton and Ben Kidd, launched with 'a mission to provide extraordinary experiences for kids and adults to learn, discover and explore the unexplorable, all through beautifully designed and innovative augmented and virtual reality'. With a team of only six people, Curiscope partnered with HTC Vive Studios to develop a sequel to its 360 VR experience 'Great White Sharks', which has, to date, 26 million views on YouTube.

Operation Apex allows the viewer to take on the role of research assistant to some of the world's leading marine scientists, without so much as getting their feet wet. The game's objective is to search for the largest great white shark ever seen, by working your way up the food chain. The game mechanics allow the player to search and discover hidden secrets to uncover which species is the greatest threat to the ocean environment. Data collected during the game reveals the impact that humans are having on the ecosystems of the world's oceans.

Curiscope took advice and guidance from some of the foremost experts in ocean science during the creation of Operation Apex. Dr Enrico Gennari of Oceans Research, a South African based research and conservation centre with which Curiscope worked, said that 'we often forget that actually, the best way to conserve is to have people caring about an issue, falling in love with a species, or even just changing perspective about it. I immediately loved the idea to be able to contribute to this project, as I saw a tool to reach a large audience, using a gaming tool to teach about the marine environment and the importance of every creature in it.'

The team was inspired to create Operation Apex after reading of a great white shark that died after just 3 days in captivity in a Japanese aquarium, where it had been brought after being accidentally caught in a fishing net. 'Why not teach people about the wonders of the ocean without capturing a great white shark and killing it?' said co-founder Ed Barton. In a press release, Curisope writes that the company was founded 'on the belief that virtual and augmented reality technologies offer us a unique way to connect more closely with the world around us. The world’s oceans will, by 2050, contain more plastic than fish by mass, and there has never been a more important time to connect us to this foreign environment.'

Introducing the game, Ben Kidd, co-founder of Curiscope said: 'As we all begin to come to terms with how deep our activity on land is impacting the ocean, we’re offering you awe and wonder along with some uncomfortable truths. We are all really excited to invite you underwater, for an adventure. To explore and discover the wonder of our oceans and its inhabitants ‘first hand’. Unlock the secrets we've hidden, witness the light and the darkness of the ocean for yourself, and go away with a deeper sense of connection between the land and the sea.'

Chris Chin, of Vive Studios added: 'For the first time, people of all ages are able to interact and engage in close encounters with the magnificent and often misunderstood shark species…without any concerns. We’re excited to partner with Curiscope to bring this stunning VR experience in time for the Holidays. From discovering the impact on our ocean ecosystem to ‘swimming with the sharks’, Apex offers a truly unique, fun learning VR adventure for the whole family -- and it will leave you with a newfound appreciation of our precious seas.”

Operation Apex is currently available for purchase through Steam and Viveport, priced at £15.49 / $19.99. It is, at the moment, only compatible with the HTC Vive, but a statement on the Steam website says that 'Oculus support is coming soon'

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