The first U.S. Presidential Debate on Sept. 27 highlighted the current political polarization in the country, much of which plays out online on social media platforms like Twitter. But can communal VR spaces be a solution to promote productive political discussions? AltspaceVR thinks so. The company has spent a year building a VR community mostly to share collective entertainment experiences like virtual Dungeons & Dragons games. But for the debate, it set up a full recreation of the NBC News Democracy Plaza at New York’s Rockefeller Center. “It speaks to a difference in the medium: [from] the medium of text based-commentary, when you’re semi-anonymous, to interacting with a person directly with your voice. You’re probably still semi-anonymous, but you’re a lot closer to who you are,” said AltspaceVR CEO Eric Romo.
LIFE is the latest publication launching a VR arm with LIFE VR, “a platform for curation as well as a way to publish original material – we will be looking to distribute what is best and most interesting in VR, to give some great work wider distribution and hit perhaps an audience that couldn’t be reached otherwise,” according to Mia Tramz, managing editor of LIFE VR. One of the first projects is Defying The Nazis, a companion VR piece to the new film Defying The Nazis: The Sharps’ War. The documentary tells the story of the Sharps, an American family who helped refugees escape Nazi Germany in 1939.
LIFE isn’t the only company getting in on VR. Streaming platform Hulu is working with the Huffington Post’s RYOT Studios to produce a VR news show and comedy show. The content will air exclusively on Hulu’s VR app.
Artist Prashast Thapan’s conclusion after attending VRLA Summer Expo, the world’s largest VR expo? As the technology continues to develop, it is also becoming more democratized. While there was the usual games and other entertainment-focused experiences, including a VR rave, Thapan highlights the diversity of creators who are innovating new media content. One project that sticks out is a virtual tour of the Temple of Bel in Syria, which ISIS destroyed in 2015.
Virtual reality is truly a global phenomenon. China’s many VR cafes and arcades are bringing the technology to the mainstream. Because users only have to pay a fee and don’t have to buy their own headsets, these businesses are making VR accessible to audiences who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience it. While Japan doesn’t have the same abundance of gaming cafes nor a strong PC gaming culture, experiential VRcades are growing in popularity in addition to existing mixed reality theme parks. There’s also hope that the VR trend will only increase with the release of the Playstation VR in the company’s own homeland.
Since launching in 2015, the United Nations Virtual Reality (UNVR) has aimed to impact peace building and fundraise by making real humanitarian tragedies virtual. Watch UN Creative Director Gabo Arora on the power of showing key decision makers VR projects, including its new work on climate change refugees. We support this approach and are excited about our project on climate change refugees in Bangladesh, which will launch by the end of October. Check out #LifeinGawair on our Twitter and Facebook pages to stay updated.