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Under The Net: Using VR to Defeat Malaria

  • 26 September 2017
  • Expert Insights

This post is part of our new Future of Virtual Reality series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.

The following is an interview we recently had with Rachel HendersonCommunications Manager for Nothing But Nets, United Nations Foundation, and Producer of “Under the Net”

1. What’s the history of Under the Net? Where and how did you begin?

RH: Last year was our 10th anniversary of the campaign’s inception, and we wanted to find a creative way to tell the story of our work. Virtual reality is the perfect way to draw people in to see the work we do and the people we aim to help every day. So we traveled to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp run by our partner, UNHCR, in Tanzania and there we met Amisa, the main character of our film. She and her family were new to the camp and malaria was already affecting them – they needed help and it just made sense to feature them.

2. How was the experience of using VR for your project?

RH: Virtual reality is a powerful tool that can transport people to see our work on a completely different continent, while also building an emotional connection with the people who we aim to save from this deadly, yet completely preventable disease. 

We were so pleased to see that it had such a strong effect on our viewers and they felt compelled to donate, or advocate, or just learn more about what we do.

3. What’s the future of VR? 

Prediction #1: There are so many directions VR could go. It could cease to exist, by becoming outpaced with AR and other more immersive technologies.

Prediction #2: It could continue to gain traction and new adopters, who demand more and more content they couldn’t access other ways. I hope that’s what happens with it.

Prediction #3: The most positive outcome I imagine is that VR becomes another household means for entertainment, education, and information to impact the world in positive ways (like we aim to do with our film).

4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in VR?

Trend #1: I’m seeing more media companies investing in VR to better immerse viewers and readers in their news stories. I’m really impressed by the New York Times and CNN and Time Inc.’s use of VR.

Trend #2: I also hope to see more corporations partner with nonprofits to create VR for good. For example, I’m thrilled with the new partnership between Google VR, Disney, and Lucas Films with the Starlight Children’s Foundation to bring VR to children’s hospitals across the country. There is no mission more noble than that.

Trend #3: I love seeing more immersive AR technologies which allow viewers to choose their paths in engaging with the content.  

About Rachel

Rachel Henderson is the Communications Manager for the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign. Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a deadly disease which claims the life of a child every two minutes. Rachel is a producer of the campaign’s award-winning virtual reality film, “Under the Net.” and she also works with the UN Foundation’s broader communications team to support a broad array of UN initiatives working around the world.

Prior to the UN Foundation, she was a Vice President in the Corporate and Public Affairs practice at Ogilvy, where she was responsible for developing, implementing, and leading communications campaigns on behalf of her clients. Rachel is a seasoned media strategist, who has built successful communications campaigns for many brands including LIVESTRONG. She graduated with honors and a B.A. in Media and Society, and Spanish and Hispanic Studies, from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. She served on the Board of Washington Women in Public Relations for five years and she’s an active member of the Public Relations Society of America, The Communications Network, Washington Women in Public Relations, and Women in Sports and Events.

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