USA — U.S. scientists are experimenting with virtual reality wildfires,hoping the simulations can encourage people to prevent such fires.
University of Central Floridaresearchers are developing an interactivesimulation of a wildfire spreading through Florida’s Volusia County.Participants will decide how much they want to invest in prescribed burns andinsurance and their decisions will be contrasted with those who only receivewritten information about the danger of wildfires.
Researchers Glenn Harrison, Elisabet Rutstrom, Charles Hughes and StephenFiore said they hope their project will demonstrate that virtual reality can bean effective public policy tool in enabling people to see, first-hand, thelong-term effects of economic and political decisions.
The researchers chose Volusia County because of its 1998 experience withmassive wildfires. They plan to use actual data for topography, weather, roads,housing density and vegetation.
However, wildfires occurring this year have already prompted some changes tothe project, primarily increasing the prominence in the simulations of thehealth effects of smoke produced by such fires.
The National Science Foundation-funded study is expected to take about twoyears to complete.