What VR and 360 Video means for not-for-profit storytelling

At Maitree, we believe in the power of storytelling to connect communities and effect positive change. We are always looking for innovative and creative ways to create more empathic and immersive experiences for audiences, so the latest developments in virtual reality and 360 video have got us super excited and busy developing our own VR stories.

Traditional video and participatory processes already work wonders for non-profit storytelling because it allows for the organisations and communities we work with, to tell their story in their own words, in their own voice. And now with VR – the possibilities seem endless.

So what is VR and 360 video?

Well, you may have seen some 360 video floating around the Internet, especially on Facebook. They are videos shot with a camera that encompasses a complete 360-degree view of a scene. When viewed through a phone you can move the phone around or tilt it up and down to view the entire scene. When viewed through a headset like the Oculus Rift or even a Google Cardboard, it’s like you are standing in the very centre of that scene. You are instantly transported to a remote community in Australia, the mountains of Tibet or a street protest in New York.

What will VR and 360 video do for non-profit storytelling?

VR storytelling has the potential to become the ultimate empathy tool. Peta Khan, Maitree’s Senior Producer, says “VR can take us right into the stories of a people and a community, to understand their world and to stand in their shoes. Being able to apply this technology to a field where creating empathy is our foremost goal, the possibilities are endless.”

With VR, a one-way presentation can become a shared experience as we essentially jump right into the scene. We are no longer just participating; we can feel as though we are walking alongside someone, or even walking in someone else’s shoes. The story becomes alive and becomes real for us because now, it feels like it is happening to us. Imagine what this will do for our world’s stories of compassion, when we can see and even feel for ourselves what others experience.

To get a glimpse of some great mini docs in VR it’s well worth checking out the work of Chris Milk and his story for Vrse Works ‘Clouds over Sidra’, a piece created for the UN exploring the world of a 12 year old girl living in Za-atari, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan: http://vrse.works/creators/chris-milk/work/the-united-nations-clouds-over-sidra/

Maitree is in the early development stages of producing VR stories for non-profit clients. If you interested in exploring this area for your organisation, please contact Peta on peta@maitreehouse.com.

Written by: Thuc Do and Peta Khan

Photo credit: Nick Hobgood via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

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