Are VR and AR drivers for raising awareness?
15 February 2021
The use of 3D technologies has spread on a large scale and its application is multiple and unlimited.
Today, there are opportunities to take advantage of immersive technologies to create an awareness campaign and bring positive social change. In particular, virtual and augmented reality are privileged because they are capable of bringing significant awareness to encourage users to take action.
As part of the #TechForGood “movement” – where technologies are used to address social challenges – this practice has a strong potential and is beginning to emerge increasingly.
Bridging the virtual and real worlds, these technologies have the potential to connect people, no matter how far apart, on an emotional level.
VR and AR serving great causes
VR and AR are valuable tools to be operated for the benefit of society. However, it should be recalled that these 2 technologies are not exactly the same in terms of experience.
Indeed, while VR completely immerses the individual in a virtual environment through a headset, AR is simply the insertion of virtual elements into the physical world through glasses, or more commonly, a smartphone.
These multiple experiences allow individuals to raise awareness in a new and innovative way.
VR or the art of storytelling and empathy
In VR, the position and point of view offered to the user is as interactive as immersive. Indeed, the story told through the virtual content is addressed in the first person, placing the user as the hero of the story. Thus, the user lives the story in the shoes of a person or a population. Being in total immersion, users’ senses are solicited, thus reinforcing their involvement and, ultimately, their empathy.
And it is in this sense that VR is a relevant medium for raising awareness by playing on the emotional fiber of the audience! VR is indeed a very engaging and favorable tool for storytelling.
The AR for instant visualization
Perhaps less immersive than VR, AR has a huge potential in terms of engagement. Not only is it more accessible, as today you only need a smartphone to use it, the deployment of this technology is also very versatile. In fact, anyone can access real-time and immediate visualization on the threshold of any environment (street, lift, house, etc.) and with any support (poster, magazine, etc.).
Social awareness for social actions
3D technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way the message is conveyed, but also how to educate others about social causes.
Engaging the world
Social medias are important touch points because of their popularity and their community (especially young people, who are undeniably the future of society). That is why it seems natural to deploy on this channel an awareness campaign using 3D technology.
For example, every year in October, the Ruban Rose association organizes the “Pink October”, a campaign to raise awareness and fight against breast cancer. On this occasion, in 2020 on Instagram, the association produced an AR filter colouring the hair of users in candy pink. This is a way to show their support for women suffering from cancer (pink being the colour now associated with this public health cause). And this campaign remains even more relevant since detecting a possible breast cancer as early as possible helps to ensure early treatment. In fact, by using Instagram, which seems to attract a young audience, there is no doubt that a large part of the audience has been informed about this cause.
But outdoor/out-of-home campaigns are not to be outdone either. It is on this channel that the NHS Blood and Transplant Association has deployed its 2016 blood donation awareness campaign in England. The ambition was to illustrate the impact of a blood donation on a patient’s health. The “Virtual blood donation” campaign used augmented reality and a real-time display on a giant screen showing the image of a sick patient connected to an empty blood bag. Coupled with visual recognition technology, it allowed the detection of a sticker on the arm of a participant whose arm is covered with a needle, a plaster and an AR tube. As a result, this triggered the filling of the blood bag and the transformation of the sick patient into a healthy person. Not only did the campaign succeed in reaching its goal of 200,000 donors, but it also succeeded in getting more people under 45 to donate!
Highlighting the stories of oppressed people
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a virtual reality experience is worth a whole book,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK. If shock is a strong emotion that can raise awareness, then VR will be able to help with the power of storytelling and immersion.
In order to demonstrate more realistically the other side of the situation in Syria, several actors have produced both VR and 360° experiences.
The Amnesty association, known in particular for its impactful campaigns, had carried out the “Fear of the Sky” campaign in 2016. The latter unveiled 360° photos of the ruins of the city of Aleppo, testimonies and amateur videos of bombs dropped from the sky on homes. And earlier in 2015, the OKIO studio produced a 360° report (accessible by VR) in Jisr Al-Choughour, a city in Syria with an apocalyptic landscape similar to that of a sadly realistic video game.
While others relied on AR to share the stories of under-represented populations.
Take the example of Movers and Shakers NYC, a non-profit organization, which created “The Monuments Project“. It was an AR experience acting as a tour of monuments with women, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ icons. The aim was to develop a culturally appropriate pedagogy to educate the public about their stories. Augmented reality thus gave all parties the chance to tell their heritage and heritage.
Rapid awareness for slowing down climate change
The effects of climate change are visible all over the world. In 2018, researchers declared climate change to be the greatest threat to human health in history.
So how do we raise awareness of the climate emergency? As in the previous examples, the user becomes a direct witness to the magnitude of the environmental situation thanks to 3D technologies.
This is the challenge taken up by “The Virtual Planet“. These are powerful VR experiences to spark action and inspire hope for the future of the planet. Juliano Calil, co-founder of Virtual Planet and climate researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, thus draws communities into the environmental consequences of climate change.
Meanwhile, National Geographic has been using Earth Day for years as an opportunity to highlight environmental issues. And in 2020, the association scored by launching its first AR coverage via Instagram. The content provided a look at the possible world in 2070. The aim was to engage users with interactive educational content to create conversations about climate change in social media.
Will tomorrow's event sector be digital?
At a time when COVID exists, technology is the hope that has saved – or at least curbed – the event industry from the effects of the pandemic.
Faced with the physical limitations of product launches, from conferences to musical performances and even trade shows, the event sector has had to embrace change faster than ever before. With agility and creativity being part of the DNA of the actors in this sector, it is therefore clear that digital formats have emerged.