Virtual Coral Reef

Please also visit our other projects, Virtual Coral Reef, Virtual Coral Reef 2, Virtual Coral Reef 3 Multiplayer and VReef on this topic.

The virtual Coral Reef is a simulation of a coral reef located in the Indo-Pacific ocean which has been developed during years of cooperation between the Computer Graphics and Virtual Reality Research Lab (CGVR) and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research.

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse marine ecosystems, a home of thousands of animal species and even protecting the coastline from waves caused by storms. The health of the reefs is endangered by pollution and climate change, just to name a few of the factors, causing coral bleaching and their dying. Without the corals, the biodiversity will endure big losses and it will cause consequences for the wildlife and humans. With the virtual coral reef we want to draw attention to the ongoing destruction of coral reefs around the world. Through the real time visualization of scientific data the project is giving users an immersive and realistic insight into the life of coral reefs. With individually adjustable parameters like water temperature or day time settings, their effect on marine ecosystems can be observed.

With multiple project groups the coral reef was maintained and expanded over the years. Many new features where added during the iterations that added functionality, new features and also new ways to experience the underwater world. It can be viewed using a regular monitor, a life size powerwall or an HMD.

Currently we are using the virtual coral reef to perform studies on user behavior.


Präsentation VRCoralReef für Open Campus 2021

  • A short film (4:45 min) explaining the purpose of our VR Coral Reef. (sorry, only available in German.)

Big fish swarms

  • Simulation of large amount of fish
  • Avoid obstacles while staying in their swarm
  • Can be hunted by sharks

Fish simulation

  • Every species of fish in the virtual coral reef has a different AI
  • Some fish stay in swarms while others swim on their own
  • Certain fish stay in their location but others swim through the entire reef

Coral growth and death simulation

  • Corals are procedurally generated
  • Corals and sea weed grow and die depending on temperature
  • Fish can also eat Corals and make an impact on their environment

Day and night cycle

  • Shadows in the reef change dynamically with sunset and sunrise
  • When it's night there are less fish to be found
  • Duration of a day can be changed by the player

Immersive environment

  • Good light effect thanks to the Unreal Engine 4
  • Corals and fish give the immersion of a living underwater world
  • Swarm AI and dynamic Corals fit well in the artistic style of this virtual world

Detailed graphics

  • Graphics resemble real life fish
  • High resolution textures were created and used
  • Normal and specular maps increase the degree of detail

Multiple display technologies

  • The virtual coral reef can be displayed on a Powerwall,
    a normal computer screen and in VR

Pointcloud avatar

  • The virtual coral reef can be displayed on a Powerwall,
    a normal computer screen and in VR


  • Up to 2 Players (currently) can explore the virtual coral reef together
  • Players can see each other as divers
  • Players can interact with each other using the Tools

Big Toolset

  • Available Tools are: Flashlight, Laserpointer, Camera, Scanner, Auqascooter, Teleporter
  • Player can swap out tools at any time
  • Tools support cooperative exploration

Trash simulation

  • Various types of plastic trash are floating around in the virtual coral reef
  • Trash pollutes the water and has a negative effect on all life forms in the reef
  • The Player can collect the trash to help fight the pollution

Different types of navigation

  • The virtual coral reef can be explored using the keyboard, swimming motions, teleportations or the Aqua Scooter tool
  • Different locomotion techniques differ in difficulty and believability


Study on user behavior in a future scenario of a coral reef (1:53)

Showcase of procedural coral generation (5:53)

Multiplayer and Pointcloud features (3:47)


Short coral reef Trailer (1:09)

Long coral reef Trailer (2:09)


Email: zach at cs.uni-bremen dot de