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VR swimming with dolphins aids disabled

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-20 07:12

APELDOORN, Netherlands - Swimming with wild dolphins is something most can only dream of, and jumping into pools with captive animals has become increasingly controversial with environmentalists condemning it as cruel.

But a Dutch nonprofit believes it has found a way to bring people, especially the disabled, closer to such a joyful experience through the technological, immersive advances offered by virtual reality.

The Dolphin Swim Club is the realization of a more than two-decade journey by artist Marijke Sjollema, who had her first chance encounter with a dolphin in 1993 while snorkeling off the coast of Mexico.

"I saw this gray shadow under the water and my first thought was this is the end. I thought it was a shark," she said.

She tried to stay calm "but this shadow was following me. And then there was this split second that I realized that it wasn't a shark. It was a dolphin."

"I didn't know anything about dolphins, but I instinctively knew, 'Oh a dolphin, I'm fine. This is a good thing'."

Sjollema's love of dolphins and all cetaceans was born.

"We know that there is something magical about dolphins. We think of joy, and playfulness and happiness and innocence when we meet dolphins. And this is even a healing quality," she said.

She and her business consultant husband, Benno Brada, have devoted their spare time, energy and personal resources to their mission of enabling people to discover their own encounter with dolphins.

Their first project using normal VR headsets playing a film of the dolphins launched in late 2015.

But last month they went a step further, unveiling waterproof VR glasses, which allow people to drift around a pool watching bottlenose and spinner dolphins playing around them in virtual reality.

Dion, a 21-year-old resident of the community, said watching the film made him feel "peaceful." But he is ready for something a little more exhilarating.

He would like to watch "a film with sharks" or lions "where the animal is hunting a prey. It would be fun to see a little bit of action."

Agence France - presse

VR swimming with dolphins aids disabled

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