Go Ahead, Bring on the Apocalypse: New Virtual Windows Make Fake Nature

Photo: rachellynnae
Photo: rachellynnae

This blog normally focuses on the lakes and a related Environment Report radio show heard in the Saginaw Bay, Michigan, area on Q-90.1 FM.

However, in honor of Dec. 21, 2012, here’s a rant on fake nature. Consider it a little present from me to you. About the present:

This isn’t my idea of natural. It’s a product from Sky Factory: virtual windows and skylights that show computer-generated nature scenes.

I know what they were going for, yes. And these are made with low-energy LEDs, and recycled aluminum for the frames. Great. But creating the outdoors … from inside?!

Here’s my commercial: “Who care’s what’s out there? Dirty skies? Concrete jungles? Zombies? No biggie, just look at your virtual window and skylight and relax.”

Sure, this may make you feel better, like one of those lights for people with the winter blues (aka seasonal affective disorder). Maybe it’s OK for a hospital room.

Still, it’s just creating a false feeling of hope. It’s like watching a news channel that only tells you what you want to hear. Sound familiar?

What’s worse: This idea was recently showcased at Greenbuild 2012, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.

Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. Green Building Council, which puts on the expo, has saved tons of coal-fired energy and carbon pollution, and is making buildings better these days.

This is not an example of an improvement in my eyes — ones that would rather look out on a real landscape than a computer-generated one. Geez.

The technology is called eScape, and is advertised as “the new virtual window that displays eight hours of real-time, high-definition nature sequences.” There’s also a skylight version “that creates a sense of openness in otherwise confined spaces.”

Is this kind of fakery actually good for us? Don’t we spend enough time staring into our cell phones? Even books can be electronic. I love you (paper-saving) Kindle, especially reading you in the real outside.

Maybe your feeling on these “windows” depends on where you live, be it the big city or the country?

Now the company claims that this technology uses biophilic design elements, feeding the instinctive need of humans to affiliate with nature.

The company says research by Texas Tech University’s Neuroimaging Institute has shown that “the Sky Factory sky compositions activate areas of the brain not activated by other positive images,” which trigger a relaxation response.

Here’s a better way to stimulate your skull: Get outdoors. Take a walk or bike ride. Bring your significant other, kids, and/or dog.

Has winter got you down? Suit up and take a hike in the woods. Take the kids sledding. Try skiing.

What’s your favorite way to leave the house behind?

Happy End of the World.

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