Raising Awareness Through Virtual Reality?
For the purposes of transparency, this article was created using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a free code does not affect my judgement of the experience.
When the first Virry VR application was released on the Playstation VR, my interest in wildlife made me purchase the application. This lead me to discovering the possible educational uses of VR (read my article here). Now, the team have returned with a second application in Virry VR: Wild Encounters.
Firstly, one thing I must remind people, as with the first application this is an experience and should not be looked at as a game. Yes there is some slight interaction with the animals, but this does make it a game.
Again I think it is important to not look at this application to review, but look at what else it is going to offer outside of your regular VR gaming experience. So, in Virry VR: Wild Encounters you are again going to visit an animal conservation in Kenya, which offers you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the lovely animals, that are being protected on these grounds from poachers.
With visiting them in a conservation it means it gives you the chance to see all these animal close up. But, it offers a few more animals that the first, as you get close to an African buffalo, a 10-year-old black rhino, a baboon, a baby rhino, elephants, a reticulated giraffe, a hyena and finally a Tanzanian cheetah. Again something that a lot people will not get the chance to do in real life.
In Virry VR: Wild Encounters you are not getting placed into 3D environments, but getting close to the animals mentioned above in 360 video. The way it is recorded allows for very high visual fidelity in the videos with it all being recorded in 4K, however, with this then being scaled down to match the output of the Playstation VR HMD it makes the distance all a little blurry. But, you are not really looking into the distance much, as you are taking in the awe of these animals from that close up.
This experience does also bring back the interaction with these animals, through shaking the controller to drop food for them and with the giraffe and baby rhino it gives you chance to call them by name – now with this being a 360 video experience this is really limited to what interaction it can have.
So, taking this into account it begs the question; Where VR has had a great influence on how people game, does it also work to raise awareness?
For me the answer is resounding yes! – and you can really see the team behind this experience want to raise awareness of the plight of these animals and the everyday dangers they face from humans alone. Again this experience will leave you in a state of shock and really feeling for the animals.
They do this with the female narration that worked so well in the original. Throughout your time interacting with and watching these animals she is going to mention the dangers they face, and ask you questions. These questions again will relate around the number of the animals remaining, and some of these numbers really will leave you thinking about how some of these animals could disappear in our lifetime. But, do not worry it does not leave you with all doom and gloom there is some nice facts thrown into the experience as well.
I’m sure some will be thinking… Surely what’s different in VR to someone showing you the same flat video with the same interaction? – To me it is that feeling when these majestic creatures come close to the camera and it feels like you are there in that moment looking at them so closely. There just seems so much more connection to the animals in virtual reality, and makes those facts hit home even more.
Again as with the first application the team have opened my eyes to another way that virtual reality could be used outside of the gaming medium. Be it for raising awareness in a great way and/or educational reasons.
Virry VR is also available on both the Oculus Rift and Gear VR
For more information about the great work this team do, please visit http://www.virryvr.com