Earth Mission Control (EMC)


MIT Media Lab

Screen grab from Earth Mission Control

Advanced Data Visualizations for Climate Intelligence

Marked by heightened awareness and global concern over the climate crisis, the MIT Media Lab's Future Worlds Research Theme has been at the forefront of tackling the urgent climate challenges facing our planet. By harnessing transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, supercomputer visualizations, and powerful immersive experiences, our goal is to influence human behavior, and help societies everywhere to improve life on Earth.

Earth Mission Control

Aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of climate change, Earth Mission Control (EMC) is an immersive, AR/VR data visualization platform that utilizes satellite Earth Observation (EO) data. This interactive tool is designed to make complex climate data accessible and comprehensible, enriching our analysis, decision-making capabilities, and understanding of the impact and effectiveness of various climate projects and policies. Through our collaborations with NASA, the World Economic Forum, and diverse industry stakeholders, EMC demonstrates how EO data and advancements in AI and data visualizations can serve as a powerful tool for ensuring transparency and accountability. This allows stakeholders to track, verify, and ensure compliance with metrics aligned with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) criteria, and strategically plan for climate resilience. 

In the development of the EMC beta design, we have intentionally shaped our VR vignettes around three foundational pillars:

  • Demystify Complexity: Simplify complex data, transforming it into clear, accessible insights.  
  • Hyperlocal Storytelling: Craft a narrative through a hyperlocal lens, ensuring resonance and relevance at a community level.
  • Human Impact: Spotlight the human aspects of climate change, equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools to advocate for meaningful climate action. 

Satellite Earth Observation and AI

Satellite EO data and services have the potential to revolutionize the way we approach sustainable development, but its full potential remains largely unexplored outside of the scientific community. The Future Worlds Research Theme aims at democratizing EO data for a broader audience, providing powerful tools to address environmental and socio-economic challenges. A key research focus continues to be the synergistic integration of EO data, AI, and intuitive user interfaces. AI has proven to be an indispensable tool in fully leveraging EO data, enabling the rapid and precise processing of data. This approach enables the creation of transformative insights that not only inform but also empower advocacy for climate action.

Earth Mission Control is designed with several modalities including a location-based decision table, information dashboards, and global data projected on a sphere, offering users comprehensive insights into relevant data, presented on a hyperlocal scale. 

EMC Development

Initially developed by Master’s student Phillip Cherner, EMC is a  virtual platform designed to bridge the climate science communication gap. It leverages various interactive tools such as map tables, virtual environments, 360-degree videos, and immersive experiences, enriched by EarthBot, an AI-powered virtual assistant. This innovative combination not only makes climate science accessible and engaging but ensures that user interactions within the virtual reality environment are intuitive, natural, and deeply engaging, enhancing the exploration of climate data stories. Learn more about Cherner's research on EMC and Lanzarote expedition