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NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries LaunchesVirtual Dive Gallery

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched a virtual reality dive gallery, focusing on the US's National Marine Sanctuaries.

Ever since Jacques Cousteau first brought the underwater world to the attention of the general public, documentarians around the world have brought life in the ocean to our TV screens. Taking the theme a step further, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in collaboration with the Ocean Agency, have harnessed the power of the latest, accessible Virtual Reality (VR) technology to bring a full, immersive experience to those who, for various reasons, are unable to dive there themselves.

The 360º pictures have been stitched together by professional underwater photographers and allow viewers to experience the various locations as if they were underwater themselves.

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ample screenshot from the VR dive gallery

As published on the Sanctuary Virtual Dive Gallery website, the experience 'is totally web-based and readily viewable on any computer or mobile device, provided you have access to the internet. So you don't need to download a special app to your smartphone or use specific software on your computer. While you do not need a need a VR headset to experience the imagery, the virtual reality experience on your mobile device is certainly enhanced with the addition of a headset viewer.'

Mitchell Tartt, chief of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Conservation Science Division, says: 'Because such a small percentage of people in the US are able to scuba dive, we constantly face the challenge of showcasing the underwater beauty and wonders of national marine sanctuaries. These virtual dives are incredibly engaging and truly provide unique experiences that anyone with internet access can enjoy. They are game changers in helping the public and our partners better understand these places.'

The project also serves to highlight the plight of the world's coral reefs in the wake of the recent unexpectedly extended worldwide bleaching events, with some of the VR pictures showing the reefs before and after the bleaching occurred. Perhaps if more people are able to witness the devastating impact of warming oceans on the world's coral reefs, they will be more inclined to take action to prevent further damage to these important marine habitats.

The galleries are entirely free and will continue to be updated as the NOAA divers take more underwater pictures.Take a tour around the demonstation image of American Samoa below:

 

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