Virtual reality is not just for playing video games and “attending” live concerts. In fact, the medium can have much more serious and impactful uses, which Ryot News recently explored in an interactive documentary about the devastating aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal this April.
Called “Nepal Quake Project,” the virtual reality and interactive (you don’t have to wear a headset to get to be a part of the video) takes viewers to the destruction caused by the quake. The documentary film showcases places and people, so those watching from presumably the comfort of their own homes can experience as close to firsthand as possible the lives of those dealing with the disaster in Nepal.
“Nepal Quake Project” was shot by David Darg, co-founder of Ryot News, a current events publisher that focuses on people taking action, while he was serving as an aide worker in Nepal after the earthquake in late April. Ryot then enlisted Susan Sarandon to do the voiceover, “since she has been a supporter of Nepal for a long time,” says Bryn Mooser, Ryot’s other co-founder.
Mooser explains that they chose virtual reality as the medium for this documentary because, in a sense, it elicits empathy. “We are always pushing the boundaries of new technology, so virtual reality was a great fit. It can transport you to a place like no other camera has before,” he says. “You can experience the scope and scale of a disaster as if you were there yourself.”
This, Mooser hopes, will inspire people to take action and get involved in Nepal’s relief efforts. As for the medium having, thus far, more of an entertainment bent, there is a precedent for VR communicating more serious stories. Samsung’s Milk VR, for example, offers a documentary called “Clouds Over Sidra,” which puts you in the daily life of a young Syrian refugee as she narrates the world of her camp.
“I don’t think of VR as playful at all,” says Mooser. “It’s a serious tool that has deep potential for empathy and compassion.”
You can watch — and interact — with the documentary here.