To date, entertainment and marketing have been the primary drivers of VR content creation. However, the technology is incredibly versatile and can have huge benefits for society – from democratising experiences like trips to museums or taking us to locations that were previously inaccessible.
But VR can have a far greater benefit too. Virtual reality can change the way a person sees, how they think, what they feel and even how someone behaves, in part because we believe it to be ‘reality’. To this extent VR has already been used to treat conditions including autism, PTSD, depression, anxiety and even promote recovery in paraplegics.
Through immersion into other’s worlds, VR can enhance our understanding of reality by overcoming barriers, ignorance and judgement. VR has the potential to do so much as it commands 100% of our attention. There is no way to turn a blind eye. Cause-based VR was the first genre to prove the power of the medium to the masses. In 2015, the United Nations commissioned a series of films to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees and Liberian Ebola victims. One such film, Clouds Over Sidra, inspired one in six members of the public who viewed it to donate money – twice the average for the UN and UNICEF. The average response rate to direct marketing is often less than 1%, these VR experiences have garnered more than 15%.
Virtual Reality technology provides a compelling new way of telling stories and engaging with people. The stories that need telling the most are often the most difficult to get off the ground. Amongst the day-to-day commercial projects that helped create the industry, many want to give something back to the wider community.
Recently launched VRTogether provides a platform for people to utilise the power of VR for positive social impact. The site brings together a community of conscious VR makers in the first initiative of its kind. Sign up and make a difference!
Words by Daryl Atkins, Creative Director at REWIND and Founder of VRTogether. Image by George Baxter.