A new virtual reality (VR) experience designed to explore a clean energy future will be unveiled at the Smithsonian’s groundbreaking new experience “FUTURES” opening Saturday, November 20th at the historic Arts and Industries Building (AIB). Created by Oracle in collaboration with curators, ‘Future of Energy,’ aims to help visitors better understand how they use energy, ways to conserve it, and their role in building a clean energy future. Time traveling from 1850 to 2050, the goal year for many climate change initiatives, the exhibit invites visitors of all ages to play games and take simple actions to explore how the energy landscape is changing and the steps they can take every day to use less energy and reduce their carbon emissions.
“While energy is one of society’s most critical resources, its future has never been more in question as we look for ways to promote a cleaner tomorrow,” said Smithsonian AIB curator Ashley Molese. “This project helps inspire a critical exploration of what’s possible by illuminating how increased renewable energy usage can create a sustainable energy future, and how collectively changing our behaviors can make a meaningful net-zero impact by 2050.”
On view through July 6, 2022, “FUTURES” is the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future and will temporarily reopen the Smithsonian’s oldest museum for the first time in nearly two decades. The part-exhibition, part-festival will celebrate the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary with more than 150 awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes, and installations that fuse art, technology, design, and history to help visitors imagine many possible futures on the horizon. Many of the exhibits will have a focus on how we can collectively create and imagine a more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Unlocking the energy of everyone
It will take people all over the world acting in unison—governments, businesses, and individuals—to reduce harmful carbon emissions. Changes in human behavior—when done on a large scale—can have a tremendous impact. In fact, new research shows that by 2040, individuals’ actions can be twice as impactful as current clean energy supply policies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As visitors take a tour through the past, present, and future of energy through immersive virtual reality experiences, they will be able to see how taking actions (even small ones), at the right times, can support a clean energy future. This could include adjusting a thermostat a few degrees, washing laundry in cold water, or unplugging devices when they’re not in use.
Individuals will step inside a virtual home and explore different areas where their actions can help reduce their energy consumption, their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and their energy bills. The experience will help demonstrate the quantifiable impact of better energy choices in and outside the home. Sample insights and interactions include:
- Weatherizing a leaky window
- Adjusting thermostat settings
- Upgrading old appliances with newer Energy Star rated machines
- Swapping out inefficient light bulbs
- Replacing old heaters, furnaces, or boilers with a heat pump
- Switching off devices in sleep mode (phantom load). This experience also includes a game to rid your devices of “phantoms”
- Making drink choices based on the relative GHG emissions for a single serving of each beverage
- Walking or biking for short trips instead of driving a vehicle
Visitors will start their journey in 1850, and travel through time to the year 2050 to explore how their choices can affect the future of energy.
“Small actions today can have a big impact on tomorrow, and a sustainable energy future requires eliminating carbon emissions from our global energy system,” said Hillary Martin, vice president, Oracle Utilities. “Countries around the world have committed to achieving aggressive decarbonization or net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The electrification of transportation and transition to more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, will help us achieve these goals. But we also need the power of people changing their habits. This interactive is designed to show that everyday actions can be part of the climate change solution.”
Designed by architect David Rockwell and his award-winning firm Rockwell Group, “FUTURES” will fill the historic Arts and Industries Building with 32,000 square feet of new artworks, interactives, prototypes, inventions, and “artifacts of the future,” as well as historic objects and discoveries from 23 of the Smithsonian’s museums and research centers. It will showcase stories of future-makers who are working tirelessly towards a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable world—inventors and creators, activists and organizers—with a special focus on communities who may not have always had a voice in future-making. Visitors will be able to glimpse how past visions have shaped where we are today, as a way to imagine their own version of humanity’s next chapter. A digital “FUTURES” Guide by award-winning firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners will launch in early 2022.
“FUTURES” is made possible by a select group of sponsors and supporters: Amazon Web Services, Autodesk, Bell Textron Inc., Jacqueline B. Mars, John and Adrienne Mars, the Embassy of the State of Qatar, David M. Rubenstein, and SoftBank Group. Major support is also provided by the Annenberg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kevin S. Bright and Claudia W. Bright, and Robert Kogod. Additional funding is provided by Accenture, John Brock III, Events DC, First Solar, Ford Motor Company, Wendy Dayton, Charlie and Nancy Hogan, the Suzanne Nora Johnson and David Johnson Foundation, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, MedWand Solutions, National Football League, the National Football Players Association, and Oracle.
About the Arts and Industries Building
The Arts and Industries Building (AIB) is a home for the future-curious. The Smithsonian’s second-oldest building opened in 1881 as America’s first National Museum, an architectural icon in the heart of the National Mall. Its soaring halls introduced millions to wonders about to change the world—Edison’s lightbulb, the first telephone, Apollo rockets. Dubbed “Palace of Wonders” and “Mother of Museums,” AIB incubated new Smithsonian museums for over 120 years before finally closing to the public in 2004. “FUTURES” is a milestone first step in the long-term plan to renovate and permanently reopen this landmark space. For more information, visit aib.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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To date, Oracle Utilities Opower behavioral energy efficiency programs have eliminated 15.2 million metric tons of carbon emissions in the United States alone. That is equivalent to two years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions for Washington, D.C. To understand how you can be part of the solution or learn more visit this report.
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