1. Chemy JMHT's Avatar
    An intense new virtual reality film isn’t a documentary so much as it is a prayer; its lector is a young Liberian woman named Decontee Davis, and her benediction is a plea for help to rebuild her country after Ebola ravaged it in 2014.

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    “I remember the fear—the fear people had of me,” Davis says in a voiceover discussing her own time fighting the disease. “They were too scared to even touch me. And I was scared of my own child. I was scared of the man I loved. Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me.”

    Davis’ words are hard to hear, but they’re even harder to hear as the sights and sounds of her world swim around you. And in Waves of Grace, a collaboration between VR studio Vrse and the United Nations that’s out today on the Vrse app, that’s just what they do. Davis, an Ebola survivor who uses her immunity to work with children orphaned by the disease, is our guide through the country, but she is also an educator—teaching her own community and anyone who watches Waves that survivors pose no threat to the public.

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    It’s a powerful message even when read on paper, but when heard while standing amongst the orphans themselves and the graves of some of the more than 4,800 lives Ebola has claimed in Liberia, it’s downright heartbreaking. And that’s why the UN wants people to experience it in VR: the immediacy of the 360-degree view gives the film a poignancy that a news report simply can’t.

    “A YouTube video or a talk can give you information but not necessarily the ability to immerse yourself in the world of another, and also interact with people,” says Gabo Arora, the UN senior advisor and filmmaker who made Waves with Vrse. “There’s something about how VR is being made—there’s a spontaneity and naturalness that’s not necessarily coming out in other means.”

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    Arora has seen it work before. His last Vrse collaboration was Clouds Over Sidra, a VR experience about a young Syrian refugee in Jordan. That project was so good at showing the situation for Syrian refugees that it received the backing of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and has proven effective at helping raise awareness—and money—for humanitarian efforts. (Recent numbers from UNICEF in New Zealand found that one in six people who saw Sidra donated, a rate double the norm, Arora says.)

    The power of Clouds also helped encourage Arora’s subject. Davis had already been a central figure in a Washington Post report when Arora approached her about participating in the UN’s new VR endeavor, and thus felt as though she had already told her story. Hoping to convince her, Arora showed Davis Clouds; that changed everything. “She said ‘Oh my God, of course. Anything you want,'” he says.

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    Arora, who plans to continue making VR experiences for the UN, says the immersive nature of the medium can also be a huge help within the UN. It’s important for the organization to stay aware of humanitarian situations all over the world, but large expeditions to already-vulnerable regions can be disruptive. Sending one small VR crew to the area and then letting people at the UN see their findings can cut down on that disruption, he claims.

    Helping create awareness of crises a world away is one of the most important things VR can do—and, as Waves co-creator and Vrse founder Chris Milk puts it, “empathy isn’t just a ‘factor’ in VR, it’s the goal.”

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    “The rise of VR as a powerful tool of empathy and understanding couldn’t be happening at a better time, really,” Milk says. “In the end we achieved our goal: bringing Decontee Davis’ beautiful story into an immersive VR space. Any positive reverberations resulting in policy-changing or fundraising is really thanks to her, and her spirit.”

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    Source: https://www.wired.com/2015/09/vr-ebola-film/
    09-11-2016 11:00 AM
  2. Russell Holly's Avatar
    Wow, great share! I look forward to watching this.
    09-12-2016 12:15 PM

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