Inspiring Social Change Through Immersive Technology

Oculus Blog
Posted by Paula Cuneo
June 23, 2017

Earlier this week, I spoke at Cannes Lions with Sebastian Tomich of the New York Times about VR’s ability to inspire and make people feel things they might have previously thought were impossible. Today, I want to share the work we’ve done to tap into that emotional power through VR for Good—and where we’re headed next.

When Oculus first announced VR for Good, we were inspired by Clouds Over Sidras successful blend of immersive storytelling and fundraising. We wanted to see if we could help others tap into the empathic power of VR and generate a similar real-world impact. Now, just over a year later, we’ve kicked off our second annual VR for Good Creators Lab pairing innovative filmmakers with inspiring nonprofits. These incredible teams will work to raise awareness of diverse issues ranging from inclusivity of trans* and disabled people to the importance of early cancer diagnosis in men, international justice system reform, and beyond.

VR for Good quickly evolved from a passion project to a successful program—recognized at highly respected film festivals like Tribeca, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and SXSW. It’s hands-down my favorite reason to come into work each day. It reaffirms my belief in VR’s ability to change lives, continually sparking new ideas and passions for me, my team, and the next generation of content creators. Today, I want to take a step back and share how far the program’s come—and how far we, as an industry, have left to go.

VR lets us feel things we may not otherwise be able to feel. Whether that’s the claustrophobia of confined spaces behind bars or the fear and loneliness wrought by human trafficking, we can step outside the comforts and limitations of our own point of view and stand with others in a visceral way.

We’ve seen the potential of VR to connect us with social causes in tangible ways. After Gear VR let us experience Step to the Line’s emotional depiction of life in prison and the inequalities that perpetuate it, we were motivated to attend one of Defy Ventures’ entrepreneurial workshops at Pelican Bay State Prison in person. Next month, our team will go back to see the folks we mentored graduate from the program—something I wouldn’t have imagined being able to participate in otherwise. I can’t wait to share this new experience and possibly galvanize others to help formerly incarcerated people transform their hustle and make a better life.

This year, we’re excited to welcome Pride Foundation into VR for Good, where they’ll work to normalize and engage people around LGBTQ issues. We’ve already seen the change that can happen when people are introduced to these topics in a personal way. After a fireside chat with Pride at our Seattle office, members of the engineering team were so moved by what they heard, they decided to collectively pool resources and donate to support the cause.

That’s just one, small example of the positive impact these connections can have—when you put people in the same space together, when you facilitate honest conversations, you can potentially change how they see the world.

By connecting people with causes that resonate—and by letting people see things from radically different perspectives inside VR—we have the ability to drive meaningful social change now and in the future.

I look forward to helping build that future with all of you.