6.1 Communicating Hurricane Risk with Virtual Reality: A Pilot Study

Wednesday, 10 January 2018: 8:30 AM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jase E. Bernhardt, Hofstra Univ., Hempstead, NY

Landfalling hurricanes in the United States have the potential to inflict extreme damage and loss of life. This can be caused by a host of socio-economic factors, including insufficient understanding of risk by individuals forecast to be impacted by the storm. Thus, we test the use of an emerging technology, virtual reality (VR), to enhance the communication of real-time risk from a hurricane forecast to make landfall. In this pilot study, we survey students at Hofstra University, an institution located on Long Island, an area occasionally impacted by tropical cyclones, most recently Sandy in 2012. In the survey, individuals are presented with a hypothetical scenario where a major hurricane is forecasted to impact their community within 48 to 72 hours. The survey includes two different types of warning products related to the hypothetical hurricane: static text messages and maps emulating those traditionally used by the National Hurricane Center to communicate risk, and a VR video simulating a hurricane landfall in a residential neighborhood. The VR element is interactive, completely immersing users in a 360-degree view with surround sound. Survey questions assess the effectiveness of both products, to determine whether they would influence respondents to take action in preparation for the hypothetical landfall. Further, the survey collects basic demographic information about each participant. Although the survey sample is skewed towards younger individuals, certain demographic factors, such as gender and previous experience (i.e., Sandy), are analyzed to determine how they may influence willingness to prepare and evacuate. Results from this survey indicate that VR technology can be a useful component to hurricane warning products, but further work can be done to improve these products, assess how more vulnerable segments of the population can access and utilize this information, and integrate VR with other new technologies, such as augmented reality.
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