Witness the Empty Streets of April 2020 in ‘When We Stayed Home’

Oculus Blog
May 12, 2020

In the wake of COVID-19, many of us are sheltering in place, and the streets of some of the world’s most bustling cities have stood empty for weeks. When We Stayed Home is a compilation of 360° video, revealing the empty streets of a world on pause. Through the eyes of a city local, witness the calm, the beauty, and the emptiness of these cities, all testifying to the singularity of April 2020 as an unprecedented moment in time.

When We Stayed Home offers a window to look back at this unique time in our history. Through the stories of iconic locals who help bring these cities to life, these extraordinary strolls offer a powerful overview of the world under confinement. The first two episodes cover Paris and Venice, and they’re now available through Oculus TV on Oculus Quest.

Jérôme Callais has been a bookseller on the banks of the Seine for the past 30 years, and he serves as the narrator of the Paris episode. He had to shut down his business during the Paris lockdown. “Even when Paris is empty, there’s always someone on the banks of the Seine,” he says. “And now, even the banks are deserted.”

Callais describes the banks of the Seine as “a great mix of culture, history and civilisation and a social, architectural and human melting pot.” He sadly pictures the total calm and emptiness of the banks of the Seine under confinement and finally shares his fears for the future, fearing that this situation becomes the “new normal.”

Alex Hai is the first transgender gondolier of Venice—and he serves as our tour guide for the Venice episode. He’s been a gondolier for 24 years and for the first time in his career, he was forced to leave his gondola Pegasus at the dock as Italy declared a national lockdown. “Venice has never been so empty,” he says. “But the city is strong. ... This year, Venice is 1599 years old and the city will go on.”

For the first time in modern history, Venice is devoid of its tourists. All the gondoliers are gone and the waters of Venice are empty. “For the last 900 years, gondolas have been the emblem of Venice,” Hai says. “One cannot live without the other.” Though fearful of the uncertain future of the tourism industry, Hai expresses his confidence in the determination of the Venetian people.

You can find both episodes on the “Must-See Immersive Videos” shelf in Oculus TV on Quest. You can also visit the Paris and Venice landing pages and select “Save to VR” to view on Oculus Go.

Keep an eye on Oculus TV on Quest to discover the empty streets of Tokyo and Jerusalem in this historic moment, coming in June.