MIT Climate Machine at the Gorge Amphitheater 

August 9, 2023
by Norhan Bayomi, Postdoctoral Fellow

From July 21-23, the MIT Climate Machine and a research group of five undergraduate students under the Rapid Response Group (RRG) deployed an innovative climate engagement program during Group Therapy Weekender, the electronic music festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington state. The goal was to raise awareness of pressing climate issues through interactive and creative experiences tailored to the festival context and attendees. The program included a set of interactive and immersive experiences designed and developed by the Climate Machine team and the RRG students, including augmented reality, projection mapping, an arts and crafts workshop, and a virtual reality exhibition.  

A major program component was an augmented reality (AR) experience themed as a scavenger hunt game, leading participants to find climate-themed AR exhibits on a journey through different locations in the festival venue. This gamified experience provided visualizations about climate topics like emission reduction, waste management, biodiversity conservation, social justice, and energy conservation in an engaging way. Players could scan QR codes to activate 3D models and explore various climate-themed multimedia content.  

person scanning QR code

A player scans a QR code as part of the augmented reality (AR) experience.

The team also set up an immersive virtual reality (VR) exhibition that envisioned a future scenario for the Gorge due to climate change, where attendees designed specific changes to the surrounding environment to mitigate climate change effects

person using a VR headset

An attendee participates in the virtual reality (VR) exhibition.

In the Climate Defender arts workshop, festivalgoers reflected on their relationship with nature by creating art using multimedia collages. The RRG students were integral to the project development and deployment at the Gorge 

multimedia art

A multimedia collage created by festivalgoers.

In addition, MIT Climate Machine designed and deployed an audio-reactive projection mapping experience called Climate Canvas. During this experience, interactive 3D visuals were used to visualize Washington state’s rich biodiversity, from orca whales to temperate rainforests. The visually engaging display reacted in real time to the music played on one of the Gorge stages. 

panel discussion

Panelists gather. From left to right: John Fernandez, Steve Heaver, Annie Norman, and Dave Dresden.

Finally, there was a panel discussion led by MIT Professor John Fernandez with Steve Heaver of Involved Group, Annie Norman of Anjuna, and musician Dave Dresden from electronic duo Gabriel and Dresden. The panel discussed opportunities to make music festivals more environmentally friendly and what role the festival attendees can play. The panelists also discussed ways to inspire positive climate action among festivalgoers through initiatives like the MIT Climate Machine program.