The Hydrous continues to “bring the ocean to everyone” in 2019 as our projects continue to develop.  We are continuing our emphasis on photogrammetry in collaboration with the Smithsonian - bringing 100 coral specimens from their collection to researchers and the public in digitized form. 

We launched our first VR film — IMMERSE — to critical acclaim, with screenings at film festivals and community events, as well is in classrooms. The film is now freely available to everyone by downloading on an Oculus GO or through Viveport Video.. 

And our Education Team completed work on Coral Reefs:A Hydrous Learning Expedition with generous support from the National Geographic Society. This innovative education and awareness product provides participants with in-depth exposure to the ocean and our threatened coral ecosystems.

The Hydrous is actively looking for partnerships, donations, and funding opportunities to expand and distribute these projects.


Digitizing Corals from the Smithsonian Collection

The Hydrous continues to collaborate with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Digitization Program Office to digitize specimens from the Smithsonian’s collection. The purpose of this project is to make ecosystems and the collection more available to the public. The model above was released to celebrate the International Year of the Reef. A large group of additional models will be released soon.

View the digital model in the Autodesk Play platform here. To download the .obj file, go here and click on the "i" in the top right hand corner of the thumbnail.

View Hydrous models HERE and learn our Photogrammetry methods HERE


Our ‘immersive’ VR/360 film was created to generate awareness and scientific understanding of coral reefs. It has been screened at film festivals and community events, and is a key element of our educational programs. The film is freely available to everyone by downloading on an Oculus GO or through Viveport Video. Expanded manta ray footage from the film expedition was screened at the National Geographic VR-equipped Gilbert Grosvenor Theatre to a sold out 450-person audience.

The Hydrous team traveled to Palau in February 2018 to capture 360 film using the  VRTUL2  underwater camera.

The Hydrous team traveled to Palau in February 2018 to capture 360 film using the VRTUL2 underwater camera.

IMMERSE narration - Dr. Ruth Gates

IMMERSE narration - Dr. Ruth Gates

The current challenge is outreach and distribution. Our ambitious goal for this project is to screen it for 1 million people, to encourage ocean literacy and empathy. In the first week it was launched on the Oculus store there were 2,500 downloads.  Screenings at film festivals, in classrooms, and at community events have added thousands more viewers.  New venues — including VR-equipped theatres and pop-ups — are currently being explored, as are collaborations with other organizations engaged with ocean education.

Hydrous Ocean Education Kits


The Hydrous has created its first Hydrous Learning Expedition, THE CORAL REEFS. This learning expedition is delivered in the form of a physical “kit” which includes 3D models, a Dive Journal, card decks, a board game and more. It is designed to give participants a wide range of experiences with the ocean, providing an appreciation and understanding of coral reefs and the threats to these endangered ecosystem.

It begins with basic immersion in the ocean, engaging participants in thinking about the ocean and “diving into” the IMMERSE VR movie, as well as learning about corals with 3D Hydrous Coral Models.  This encourages curiosity and provides basic intuitions about coral reefs.

The focus then shifts to scientific understanding, as participants sort ecosystem cards that show the diversity of organisms that live on reefs.  They then explore bleaching with hands on experiments using the 3D models, and learn about warming oceans in the areas where these models were collected (via photogrammetry).

 Finally, participants consider a range of coral stressors and learn about various potential solutions that are being explored to address these. 


Dive into the Ocean: Experience the Reefs in Virtual Reality, View 3D Coral Models, Become Curious 

Think Scientifically: Explore Coral Reef Biology and Ecology, Experiment with Coral Bleaching, Analyze Data

Address Realities:  Acknowledge Threats to Ocean Health, Learn about Potential Solutions, Notice the Positive and the Negative

 Learn more in this video with Hydrous Ambassador Dr. Allison Fritts-Penniman.

As with the IMMERSE project, our current focus is outreach, to produce large numbers of these Kits in a wide range of contexts to engage people widely with the ocean.