People often look at virtual reality as a “Gamer’s Only” club. However, newcomers and enthusiasts will quickly find that the non-profit space is taking VR into their own hands.
To aid nonprofits, Facebook is bringing its Donate Button and Scheduled Live features over to its live 360 video service. Naturally Facebook hopes to drive 360 video viewership, but while helping out non-profits.
Whether you participate in a virtual reality demo in a Samsung or Microsoft store, or step into a virtual world at a film festival such as Sundance, non-profits have taken advantage of this space to drive an unavoidable immersive experience for anyone willing to simply step inside.
Let’s look at a few examples of ways nonprofits are using VR to aid their causes.
To Help Refugees
Nearly one half of Syria’s 23 million people have been displaced in its civil war and no group has been as severely affected as children. Children make up more than half of the three million refugees living in camps or makeshift housing. Some news reports indicate that children are actually being specifically targeted in the violence.
Project Syria, an immersive journalism project, helps viewers at home connect with the otherwise unimaginable.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) hosts a Lebanon Experience to help viewers understand a conflict that few seem to know or remember anything about. “We can’t bring donors or people to the field, but we bring the field to donors and our constituents and our supporters,” says executive producer, Cathe Neukum.
The IRC partnered with actress Rashida Jones and YouVisit to offer Syrian refugees a voice through virtual reality.
Other charities such as Amnesty International have utilized 360 video for their own refugee-centric immersive experiences.
To Help the Homeless
Stanford University has created a virtual reality experience that puts you in the shoes of someone who goes through a journey that ends in homelessness. Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab is studying whether virtual reality makes people more empathetic to homeless people than other forms of media do.
This scene simulates a woman sleeping on a bus.
The experience begins in your own home, where you first find out you’ve lost your job. Eventually, you find yourself living in your car, having to constantly be aware of your own safety. At the end of the experience, the administrators as the viewer to sign a petition for the homeless. This study gauges reaction and engagement to fully understand the empathetic reaction viewers have to virtual video.
To Help the Mentally and Physically Disabled
Similarly, virtual reality has caught on as an important interactive tool for medicine. Virtual reality has found its place in aiding mental health patients and the disabled in their recovery.
For the disabled, virtual reality can help explore a world that, to many, is difficult or impossible.
For Danny Kurtzman, his virtual experience began as he cruised by Specular Theory’s display at the Future of Virtual Reality event, hosted by Singularity University. “It was such a trip because I went surfing last week but I was lying down on the board,” Kurtzman says. “In the headset I could actually experience surfing standing up!”
Kurtzman has muscular dystrophy and with the help of Life Rolls On–a nonprofit organization that gets people with paralysis engaged in action sports–he is able to go surfing whenever he’d like.
To Just Help
Numerous other nonprofits including the Clinton Foundation are using VR and 360 video to aid their causes. Perhaps the only benefit is the novelty of VR bringing people to their organizations. Or perhaps the VR experience does bolser certain causes. Whatever the reason, nonprofits are benefiting. And, as stated earlier, Facebook is integrating its Donate Now and Scheduled Live features into 360 video. This will almost certainly drive donations and engagement with nonprofits.