VR in journalism, advocacy, education, training, art and more

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About this page

If you are new to virtual reality (VR) technology and applications, welcome.

The first thing to know is that there is no substitute for experiencing VR via a quality headset, so one can experience truly “in-the-moment” immersive, 3D visual environment with stereoscopic sound.

That said, I created this page to:

  • Give the newcomer a sense of the technology and how it can be productively applied, via a flat-plane screen, depicting VR experiences that have been adapted for YouTube
  • Showcase some of the best VR experiences I’ve found (listed below, by category)

If you’re watching on your phone, just move the phone to your right, left, up and down, or use your finger to move the screen in any direction.

If you’re watching on a tablet or computer screen, use the directional controls in the upper-left corner to gain a 360-degree perspective on the content, as in this VR experience in the cockpit of an IndyCar as it races around the track at 200+ mph (see more in VR for Thrill-Seekers, below):

Following are a few of my favorite YouTube VR experiences.


Flying on the back of an eagle

Of all the adventure-oriented VR experiences I’ve had, none is as mesmerizing or incredible as this:

Flying on the back of an eagle for 5 minutes at 10,000 feet, in the Italian Alps:


UVa Rotunda

Some people know that I was drawn to Charlottesville, VA soon after the 9/11 attacks, because as I describe in my recent memoir, it’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home.  The centerpiece of Charlottesville is the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson designed – both the structures, as well as the curriculum.  And the centerpiece of UVa is the Rotunda, which contains the Dome Room, which I understand was voted by the American Institute of Architects as “The most beautiful room in America.”

Here is a VR tour of the Rotunda:


A variety of VR experiences I’ve found, from a big array of realms

Here are some examples of great VR experiences I’ve found from my initial research into this realm; if you know of any others that might fit in with these categories or other interesting ones, please email me.

VR in Journalism

VR in Advocacy

VR in Education

VR in Training

VR for Eldercare

VR for Travel

VR for Thrill-Seekers

VR Adventures In Our Amazing World

VR in Art

VR in Music

VR in Other Constructive Applications

VR in Propaganda

The business of VR

VR Industry Analysis


VR in Journalism


“12 Seconds of Gunfire: The True Story of a School Shooting”

The Washington Post’s latest: an animated film about an elementary school shooting, by Tom Jones, Poynter Institute, April 29, 2019. Excerpt:

The film is dreamy, whimsical, childlike.

A little boy on a swing set. A little girl in her bedroom, writing a letter asking the boy to come over and play. Her cat stretches out next to her.

Then it becomes heartbreaking as you learn the children are based on real people and that the little boy is now dead. He was first-grader Jacob Hall, shot and killed in 2016 when a 14-year-old opened fire during recess at Townville Elementary School in South Carolina. The little girl is Ava Olsen. Jacob was her best friend.

The immersive 360-degree film “12 Seconds of Gunfire: The True Story of a School Shooting,” produced by the Washington Post, is ambitious, risky and, ultimately, powerful experimental storytelling to describe what Ava has gone through since that horrible day.

“We wanted to do something where the act of being immersed in it makes the story richer and more compelling than it would be any other way,” Jeremy Gilbert, the Post’s director of strategic initiatives, told Poynter on Monday.


Other journalism VR

The following copy is C&P’d from here: 5 compelling stories told with Virtual Reality – Advocacy Assembly

“The Displaced” (Produced by The New York Times)

After sending 1 million Google Cardboard headsets to its subscribers last October, The New York Times introduced “The Displaced,” its first VR project. The VR experience gives audiences an inside look at the day-to-day lives of three refugee children around the world: an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy named Oleg, a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hana and a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy named Chuol.

“Seeking Home” (Produced by the Associated Press)

The Associated Press produced a 360-degree video documenting conditions at Calais, the refugee camp in northern France – a place where refugees stay before crossing the English Channel. The AP’s video takes the viewer directly inside the camp for a close-up view of refugee life.

“Solitary Confinement” (Produced by The Guardian)

Dubbed “6×9,” The Guardian’s first VR project gives audiences the chance to explore life inside a prison cell of solitary confinement – a reality for 80,000 people in the US alone. Audiences can experience this story in two forms – the Guardian’s VR app or a 360 video you can watch on the VR headset.


VR in Advocacy

How The United Nations Is Using Virtual Reality To Tackle Real-World Problems – Fast Company

Climate Advocacy Comes to Cannes, by Connect4Climate (event organizer). Excerpt:

The Connect4Climate team will also be presenting a number of thematically and geographically diverse VR experiences drawn from the World Bank’s growing catalogue: Lumana: Overcoming Fragility (on finding peace amidst turmoil in wartorn Niger), Our Home: Our People (on the courage and optimism of Fijians confronting climate change), The Role of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Reducing Malnutrition in Laos (on Laotian families striving to better the lives of thier children), Clean Cooking in Rwanda (on the difference a simple stove upgrade can make to families and to the planet) and March4Earth (on a historic climate march in Rome blessed by Pope Francis).

These virtual reality narratives will illlustrate the World Bank’s commitment to increasing global empathy and awareness through a bold new medium, and will speak more specifically to VR’s ability to motivate action to stem the tide of climate change and lift global citizens out of poverty.

Demonstrating virtual reality research to lawmakers — American Psychological Association

Students With Autism Get Virtual Reality Lessons in How to Interact With Police – Education Week

How virtual reality could help Congress understand the issues, by Joshua Habursky and Mike Fulton, The Hill, December 21, 2016. Excerpt:

Since 2014, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken a virtual reality exhibit to universities and colleges in the United States and Australia called “I, Chicken,” a three-minute simulation of a chicken’s life that concludes with being transported and slaughtered.

You can also go to With.in and watch virtual reality stories about the plight of refugees or the woes of urban poverty. These experiences are graphic, compelling and pull at the sensory strings of the user. This advocacy tool is targeted toward college students, but imagine if a headset was given to a member of Congress or staff member during a fly-in or in a meeting.

Human rights and public health organizations can amplify their advocacy messaging with virtual and augmented reality technology. If you are unable to arrange a factory visit or have a member of Congress tour your school, hospital or company, you can bring that same experience to them through a headset or even a mobile application.

Virtual reality & lobbying: More than just a gimmick?, by Cambre Associates (2019). Excerpt:

In an interview with Quartz, Grace Ahn, a professor of communication and advertising at the University of Georgia studying the impact of VR on decision making, explains that “in order for policymakers to really understand what they’re deciding on, virtual simulations will be a really great way to highlight the issues.” Her research shows that VR has more persuasive effects than simply imagining the other person’s perspective.[…]

VR can be a powerful tool for influencing legislation around issues related to social justice, poverty, inclusion, migration. Animal rights activists have already experimented with VR at the European Parliament because as explained by a US activist to The New York Times, “the meat industry always complains that we’re using selective footage, narrow vantage points and editing to make things seem worse. But with VR, you’re seeing exactly what we saw and hearing exactly what we heard.”


VR in Education


The Anne Frank House in virtual reality; The Secret Annex VR app; Excerpt:

Explore the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family in virtual reality using the ‘Anne Frank House VR’ app. The app provides a very special view into the Secret Annex where Anne Frank and the seven other people hid during WWII.

Anne Frank House VR; Excerpt:

In 1942, during the Second World War, Anne Frank, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family were forced to go into hiding to escape persecution from the Nazis. For more than two years, the Franks and 4 others would live in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building in Amsterdam, sharing the burden of living in hiding in confined quarters with the constant threat of discovery.

The award winning Anne Frank House VR offers a unique and emotional insight into these two years. Experience the world-famous Secret Annex in a never before seen way. Travel back to the years of the Second World War and wander through the rooms of the Annex that housed the group of 8 Jewish people as they hid from the Nazis. Immerse yourself in Anne’s thoughts as you traverse each faithfully recreated room, thanks to the power of VR, and find out what happened to the Annex’ brave inhabitants.


VR in Training

Fordham University business students have a new tool to prepare them for boardrooms: Virtual reality, by The Washington Post. Excerpt:

Business schools are packed with courses devoted to high-tech entrepreneurship, financial accounting and academic theories on leadership.

Far less common are courses that teach students the “people skills” necessary to put their newly acquired knowledge to use.

In the business world, where relationship-building is essential, these “soft” skills — personal confidence, negotiation, active listening, calm and flexibility — can play an outsize role. But they’re often treated like inborn traits, skills more likely to be won in a genetic lottery than cultivated in a classroom.

At Fordham University this semester, business professors are challenging this notion with a high-tech teaching tool that is making its way into more and more classrooms: virtual reality. Instead of listening to lectures or poring over textbooks, students enrolled in Fordham’s “Exploring Entrepreneurship” class are donning VR goggles that temporarily remove them from the classroom and place them in simulations designed to build professional skills.

Walmart Revolutionizes Its Training with Virtual Reality, by SHRM. Excerpt:

A quiet virtual reality revolution is occurring at Walmart. Since 2017, when the company began using virtual reality headsets in its training centers—called “Walmart Academies”—Walmart has used the technology to improve the employee experience, better assess workers’ skills and present new ways of training staff.

According to Andy Trainor, vice president of learning at Walmart, virtual reality in the retail environment makes a lot of sense, especially in stores that are open 24 hours a day. Why?

“Because you don’t have the opportunity to train after hours and you don’t want to disrupt your customers on the floor,” he said. “Virtual reality allows you to artificially create scenarios that you can’t recreate on the sales floor in a way that associates can learn in a safe environment.”

Future or fad? Virtual reality in medical education, by the American Association of Medical Colleges. Excerpt:

As a first-year resident at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), Travus White, MD, stood in a trauma bay, directing a team rushing to save a toddler with a life-threatening allergic reaction. As adrenaline coursed through his body, White scanned nearby carts for treatments. None, when administered, seemed to have any effect.

“What I remember the most was that the respiratory therapist kept saying, ‘He’s not breathing, he’s not breathing, he’s not breathing!’” notes White. But he pressed on, using the algorithm he’d learned in training. Soon the patient responded, and White shook off the stress as if waking from a dream.

In fact, the whole scenario had happened in White’s mind — thanks to a pair of virtual reality (VR) goggles and software developed with the help of CHLA educators. The patient and emergency staff were merely animations programmed to respond realistically to trainees’ split-second decisions.

White is among a growing number of learners at medical schools and teaching hospitals who are training through computer-generated simulations thanks to VR and its cousin, augmented reality (AR).

The Future of Virtual Reality in Ophthalmology Is Already Here, by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Excerpt:

Virtual surgical training devices, such as the EYESi, have been implemented within many residency programs. Most studies on the effectiveness of these devices are small with fewer than 50 trainees in the research cohort. Many of these studies report outcome measures (e.g. self-reported confidence) that are difficult to extrapolate to standardized, clinically meaningful outcomes. Many do not adequately control for confounding variables.

Alcon, a division of the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, uses education grants to create VR content for education. At past annual meetings, the company has demonstrated the beginnings of a VR eyeball, A person can stand in a virtual eyeball and look around the inside of the eye.


VR for Eldercare

Virtual Reality for Seniors | Welcome to Rendever


VR for Travel

From Cartegena, Colombia:


VR for Thrill-Seekers

From piloting fighter jets to riding along with a motorcycle racer, to fearsome rollercoasters, there is no limit to the variety of thrill-seeking content for virtual reality.

Use the directional controls at the top left to see in 360 degrees.


Take control of a fighter jet over Southern California in VR


Top 20 Military Airshow Teams in VR: Fly in a Plane in 360°


Samsung Portugal | F16 VR 360º Flight


In the cockpit of an IndyCar as it zips around the track at 200+mph

Incredible. Produced by USA TODAY and Honda Motors.


Let’s Go “Parahawking”defined as: “an interactive experience of gliding with birds of prey, combining paragliding with falconry Trained birds of prey fly with paragliders, leading them to thermals“; more here


More:


Surfing in Tahiti – from inside the wave:

 



Fly with the Blue Angels during amazing close-in take off and maneuvers:



Experience aircraft carrier flight ops, active combat training for first time in VR


Fly with Swiss fighter jets (F-5s, made by Northrop-Grumman, in America):


VR Adventures In Our Amazing World

Underwater VR experiences

Elephants

Lions

Underwater VR experiences

Ocean of Light – Dolphins | Trailer | Meta Quest Platform – YouTube

The coolest overall underwater VR experience I’ve seen. An amazing array of fish, from sharks to dolphins and an endless variety of smaller fish, all from a stationary location, here, in 4K. 10 minutes.

Producers’ description:

“Dive virtually in Socorro, one of the best dive destinations in the world. Get close virtual encounters with sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, manta rays, trevally, redtail triggerfish, and much more. Get a feel of how it would be to dive the Revillagigedo Islands and be face to face with some of its magical creatures.”


Sea lions

One of a number of high-quality VR experiences produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); link below:

See more underwater adventures produced by NOAA at:

sanctuaries.noaa.gov/vr/


Dolphins

This film, produced by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, is one of the most outstanding dolphin VR experiences I’ve seen. 2 minutes.


In this 2:16 VR video, The Dolphin Project claims there are 2,000 dolphins kept in captivity, in amusement park type settings, around the world, and rallies public opposition to patronizing them. More here.


See TheDolphinSwimClub.com


Humpback whales



Tiger sharks


Hammerhead sharks

Wait for it…. at 1:37…. in VR it is UNBELIEVABLE.


Elephants

Coming.


Lions


VR in Art

In this case, dance. Use the directional controls at the top left to see in 180 degrees:


VR in Music

I have no idea how he played four parts in the same video, but it’s pretty cool. Learn more here.


VR in Other Constructive Applications


VR in Propaganda

Coming.


VR Industry Analysis

Global Virtual Reality in Healthcare Market is Expected to Reach US$ 3,441.4 Million, by Absolute Markets Insights, July 10, 2019.

Behind The Tech with Kevin Scott: Jaron Lanier: Father of Virtual Reality, Renaissance man, by Behind The Tech (Microsoft), March 22, 2019. Description:

This scientist, musician and author is best known for his work in Virtual Reality, and his advocacy of humanism and sustainable economics in a digital context. His 1980’s startup, VPL Research, created the first commercial Virtual Reality products – introducing avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences and prototypes of major VR applications. Hear why he is worried the present Internet may be destroying societies, democracies and economies.

The DeanBeat: Consumer VR is making snail-like — but steady — progress | VentureBeat

Speech by Facebook’s VR chief, September 2019:

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