The humane side of virtual reality

Virtual reality is the ‘next big thing’, an industry on the precipice of being worth billions that will transform industries including entertainment, engineering and education.

What many people who are resistant to this fancy new technology don’t realise is that it also has the power to help those in need.

Virtual reality and 360degree video can help people to understand what’s beyond their own world. By giving people an understanding of a completely different reality you can prompt them to take actions.

One such example is The Guardian’s recent immersive content 6×9, which allowed users to virtually experience what it is like to be placed in solitary confinement in prison. The purpose of this interactive video was to create a dialogue around the psychological impact of prisoner isolation.

Elsewhere, one agency is using the power of 360degree video to connect WWII veterans with tours of war memorials around the world. This venture was produced to essentially provide a free travel experience to those too old to journey to the destinations that had been so impactful on their lives.

The same agency has worked on a project based in Zambia, which highlighted the plight of the disabled in developing nations. By demonstrating the struggles of someone with limited mobility, 360 video was able to play a part in raising awareness about specialty wheelchairs for people who live on rough and difficult to access terrain.

In Japan, Virtual Reality has been used to treat phantom limb pain, which affects amputees who are plagued by discomfort from body parts that no longer exist. Researchers have discovered it is possible to reduce the pain caused by this affliction by creating replica visuals of the amputated limbs.

Meanwhile, at charity galas in fancy hotels, guests of honour are able to put on a pair of virtual reality goggles to view first hand the work that the charity is doing on the other side of the world. Providing this up-close-and-personal experience can really bring home the charity’s message and help to increase donations.

And in the UK, Microsoft has worked with partners to help young people with autism by introducing them to coding as well as virtual reality. By introducing them to the idea of building something and then seeing it work, the goal was to show participants how they can transfer an interest in IT to a career in the industry.

Virtual reality isn’t just something you watch, it is something you experience. This provides the potential to open doors not just to profits, but to positive change in the world.