By City Tech Voices
Mark Curtis, chief client officer at Fjord, explores how VR can be harnessed by charities as a key communication channel.
Virtual Reality (VR) has never felt more real, with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all using an alternate reality environment to enhance our entertainment. But what if the boundaries of VR could be challenged further as a force for good, and used as a platform to educate us about worlds that exist beyond our own? VR in charitable campaigns is not an obvious choice for the industry, but it does have the potential to drive our empathy and emotional responses, delivering a powerful call-to-action. So how can charities capitalise on the opportunities of VR?
Bringing audiences to the heart
VR technology immerses its audiences, as seen in a recent VR experience by video startup Ryot, which put people at the heart of the refugee crisis. With VR, we can experience the immense distance travelled by someone in central Africa to reach a clean water source. We can feel the impact of war and conflict on those trying to live ordinary lives. In short, VR can shape our emotional responses to previously unimaginable environmental surroundings and even motivate us to take action.
All that said, there are still plenty of barriers to conquer if VR is to become a key communication channel for charities, and right now, the biggest setback is cost. Even the most primitive of VR headsets needs a smartphone to function and the required specs for these devices can easily run into hundreds of pounds. However, the tide is starting to shift and Microsoft will soon be launching affordable VR headsets through its partners.
This means that VR technology will become more accessible to consumers across the board, amplifying audience participation in these experiences. On the other hand, a charity isn’t restricted to using VR to drum up support and donations – it can also use this technology as part of its activity in helping others.
Another major obstacle to the adoption of VR by charities is the issue of space. The major players in VR need physical space for users to move around in. This raises the issue: if a charity wants to spread its message, should they create a physical space to do so and how can they adapt the experience to those with limited or no physical areas in which to roam?
These questions remain open-ended, but companies can innovate to offer solutions. Whether it’s through creating a portable studio that can tour the country, like the National Autistic Society’s recent VR experience, or by releasing an application that users can download at home, there are multiple answers and options, which can then level the playing field within the VR industry for both the tech giants and disruptive startups.
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