Using VR to bring people closer to the refugees crisis
Swedish Red Cross Concept Development
Using smartphones and Google Cardboard to create a pair of VR glasses that brings someone elses reality right to your lense.
As the refugee crisis continued to worsen throughout 2015, a wave of "crisis fatigue" was simultaneously sweeping across Europe. To combat that worrying trend, we felt compelled to remind people that while we may be safe and secure, everyone has a part to play towards alleviating the suffering and atrocities our fellow human beings are facing in an increasingly dire situation.
"No matter how well people's intentions are, it's hard to relate to issues that are far away and out of sight."
To effectively solve this challenge meant that we had to reframe the problem at hand by asking a different set of questions. Together with our partner, Swedish Red Cross, we arrived at an insight: no matter how well people's intentions are, it's hard to relate to issues that are far away and out of sight. Therefore, instead of bringing people to ground zero, we decided to bring ground zero to them.
The crux of the idea involves documenting and presenting the refugees situation as realistically as possible in order by placing people right at the heart of a refugee camp. Our intention here was to revive the dormant sense of purpose and responsibility towards humanity that we believe lies in everyone.
Once the mechanics and logistics were settled, we wasted no time in traveling down to the Balkan with Red Cross representatives to document an overcrowded refugee camp. It was critical that our audience would be able to experience the situation as closely to the reality as possible. Hence, we created a sense of immersive reality by setting up 360° camera rigs that allowed us to accurately capture and share what was happening around the camp in its entirety, raw and unfiltered.
In addition, we also wanted our audience to be able to engage in the project as an active participant and not just a passive viewer, which is why they could combine their smartphones with Google Cardboard to create a pair of VR glasses that instantly transports them right into the heart of the refugee camp — turn your heads and the camera follows — creating an effect of heightened realism as if it was seen through their own eyes.
Since its launch, the project has received positive press from all the major media houses in Sweden. Furthermore, in a testament to the strength of the idea and execution, Red Cross has been using the project as part of their presentations at international conferences, corporate events, fundraisers, and much more.