Tech Trends Virtual Reality Syria The Right Choice
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Bringing War Home

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VR makes you choose between life or death for a family facing the horrors of urban conflict.

Most of us are lucky enough not to have experienced urban conflict first-hand, but VR can give us a sense of what that looks – and feels – like for people on the ground who have to actually live that reality.

Virtual Reality has been used many times to show the dreadful consequences of the Syrian conflict. As early as 2015, Chris Milk brought us Clouds Over Sidra and showed how VR was indeed a powerful “empathy machine” as he described the medium in a TED talk that gathered over 1.5 million views since then. The theme was also explored from different angles through BBC animation We Wait and Enter the Room which was the first project produced by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Most of us are lucky enough not to have experienced urban conflict first-hand, but VR can give us a sense of what that looks – and feels – like Click To Tweet

Virtual Reality has been used many times to show the dreadful consequences of the Syrian conflict Click To Tweet

Yet The Right Choice is the first use of interactive VR by the humanitarian sector that gives the viewer an active role in shaping the story of civilians trapped in a war zone. The film is a product of the Google Daydream Impact Project which aims to make a positive difference in society through the application of immersive technologies such as VR and AR.

“New technology, including virtual reality, can be a powerful tool to help a large audience understand the human cost of war,” believes Jennifer Hauseman, director of communications and information management at the ICRC.

In the experience, you’re placed next to a Syrian family trapped in urban warfare, and the title reflects on their terrible reality, where the decisions you’re asked to make represent the difference between them living or dying. In the face of attack, you have a choice as to what you do, yet none of those choices lead to a truly positive outcome. You’re stuck with a list of bad options.

The Right Choice is the first use of interactive VR by the humanitarian sector that gives the viewer an active role in shaping the story of civilians trapped in a war zone Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Virtual Reality Experience International Red Cross Syria

By polling users of the experience, the ICRC wants to understand more about people’s perception of urban warfare Click To Tweet

The Right Choice was filmed in Lebanon with guidance from ICRC workers who had direct experience of the Syrian conflict. It was produced in collaboration with several creative agencies such as Don’t Panic London, Visualise and Stoked Films.

By polling users of the experience, the ICRC wants to understand more about people’s perception of urban warfare and see how VR can influence behaviour and build empathy for those affected by war.

“This film asks: What would you do if you came under attack?” explains Christopher Nicholas, ICRC’s project lead for the film. “Virtual reality transports viewers from the comfort of their homes to the horrors of the battlefield in a visceral and powerful way,” he adds.

This work follows from I Saw My City Die, a report published by the ICRC in 2017 that highlights the impact on civilians of fighting in cities and towns in Syria and Iraq, revealing that urban offensives accounted for eight times more conflict-related civilian fatalities than on-going fighting or fighting in other areas. This means that urban conflict accounted for 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.

The Right Choice was filmed in Lebanon with guidance from ICRC workers who had direct experience of the Syrian conflict Click To Tweet

Tech Trends Virtual Reality Experience Syria War International Red Cross

Audience insights from this experience will inform future investment in VR as a critical tool to educate people and raise awareness and action for humanitarian issues Click To Tweet

The main purpose of The Right Choice is to test VR’s potential to build empathy for these people who are still trapped in war zones every day. By surveying people in major global cities once devastated by war, the ICRC wants to find out if it is possible to change someone’s perception and incite behavioral change. Audience insights from this experience will inform future investment in VR as a critical tool to educate people and raise awareness and action for humanitarian issues.

”It can be hard to raise awareness around some situations – especially when they are distant. We are thankful to have partnered with ICRC to leverage VR to give insight into a complex situation, and helping give a voice to those left behind,” concludes Sarah Steele, VR Program Lead at Google.

The experience can be downloaded now from the Google Playstore and the iOS Apple Store.

The main purpose of The Right Choice is to test VR’s potential to build empathy for these people who are still trapped in war zones every day Click To Tweet

This article originally appeared on VRScout

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Alice Bonasio is a VR and Digital Transformation Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.

 


Also published on Medium.