Virtual reality is growing for consumers and businesses alike in such realms as gaming and advertising. But VR is far more than simply creating worlds to entertain and sell products. Virtual reality can be used to bolster education efforts by taking students on virtual field trips, teaching surgeons how to perform complex surgeries on virtual patients, and helping scientists to manipulate proteins in 3D.
Virtual reality can even enhance empathy, and as such can be used for social causes that need viewers to offer up understanding and by charities to increase their funding by tugging at users heartstrings.
All across the globe, there are people with big hearts who are using virtual reality to make a real difference on the planet. So many, in fact, that it was almost impossible to narrow it down to just ten for this list:
We did not choose where we were born any more than anyone else, but some people have been born into areas where water is not free-flowing, where this basic need cannot be fulfilled from a tap or a grocery store. Charity: Water seeks to change the fates of those people by giving them access to fresh, clean drinking water. Of course, this process can be costly, and donations are what keeps this charity able to keep doing good in the world.
In their recent VR production from Vrse.works, viewers can experience that moment of drilling into clean water in the desert alongside the people who will benefit. Users can see their joy as they understand how much easier and healthier their lives and the lives of their family will be with the help of Charity: Water.
According to AdWeek, at an event where a donor had pledged $60k towards the charity, the video moved him to instead donate $400k.
Anyone can view the video on YouTube. But be mindful, it can be a tear-jerker.
Testimony is a virtual reality experience that helps users understand and empathize with survivors of sexual abuse. Taking the form of an interactive documentary, users are able to follow different paths of questions with the survivors through their journey toward healing.
If the viewer needs a breather from the heavy content, all they have to do is look away, and the survivor will take a step back. The viewer can resume at any time.
A new sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in America, and using VR to give survivors a voice and to raise awareness is definitely a fight for the greater good.
This VR film lets users experience the world differently, through the sensations of a blind person. It takes you through a walk in the park, paying attention to the various sounds in order to paint a picture of what’s happening around you. This VR film is in full 360 and has a great potential to increase empathy and understanding of people with different methods of perception. It is an eye-opening, moving piece. The film is available for free on many devices.
This film offers an intense sensory experience similar to what some people with autism experience on a daily basis.
Yet another VR film that provides insight into an often ill-understood method of viewing reality. By serving up flashing lights and loud noises that most viewers would find uncomfortable, the film hopes to engender empathy for those people who may not always cope well with bustling scenes that can be rife with sensory overload.
You can watch the film free on Youtube.
Malaria is an illness that can cause flu-like symptoms and even lead to death.
While in the US, malaria is generally treatable, many countries do not have the knowledge to the education, preventive measures, and medications available to dwellers of first-world countries.
This VR film shows the life of an 11-year-old girl in a refugee camp in Tanzania. It shows the benefits that money donated toward Nothing But Nets can provide families who receive treatments and bed nets in the fight against malaria.
Education is the foundation of change. Pencils of Promise (PoP) uses donations to help build school buildings and curriculum programs for students in Ghana, Laos, and Guatemala.
In this RYOT-produced film, viewers are transported to Ghana to see the transformation created by Pencils of Promise funds. Students are provided a new school to learn all of the skills that will follow them into adulthood, and viewers can see what a difference it makes.
In January of 2016, one of the coldest months of the year, 549,928 people were homeless on any given night in the United States. This epidemic is something that is often ignored, and, unfortunately, many homeless people are treated in deplorable ways.
This virtual reality experience can impart empathy and understanding for homeless people and their struggles and may incite viewers to pull together to help mend a broken system and keep our streets for buildings, not for people.
It is through education and understanding that we can learn to effect change.
Dementia is a scary prospect for anyone who has seen friends or family experience its grip. While research is being done into treatments for this ailment, it is important for viewers and potential donors to understand and empathize with dementia patients.
But what is it like to experience dementia? This virtual reality app which is free on Android and iPhone seeks to put viewers into the shoes of someone who has dementia to experience it for themselves, if even for a short time.
We all hear often that we need to save the environment, but many of us do not see the impacts of our actions in our daily lives. Sure, we hear that the glaciers are melting and that wildlife is endangered, but even if we have an intellectual understanding of this, we rarely have a deep emotional response. By experiencing the arctic in virtual reality, Greenpeace hopes to bring uses closer to this environment and to facilitate a connection with the beautiful scenery and animals there in order to help us more closely monitor our actions and impact to the environment.
In their Arctic VR Experience, viewers can experience polar bears, baby seals, and even the inside of a glacier.
With wars raging nonstop over the world, sometimes it can be difficult to bring our focus back to peace and kindness toward our fellow man.
The VR4Peace Museum lets viewers explore the lives of the world’s most famous peacemakers, the decisions they made, as well as peacemaking in the modern world. In their own words, the VR4Peace Museum is exploring the courage and commitment to humanity, empathy, and compassion that define all peacemaking greatness, now and forever.
Virtual reality is really bringing to life some of the better parts of the human heart and inciting people to lend their time and money to help their fellow man.
For another, extensive list of VR projects helping the greater good, please check out this list from Jason Williams who has taken the time to divide VR projects that are making a positive impact into different categories.
Personally, I would like to see more VR along the lines of mental health issues.