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The opportunities in virtual reality

Virtual reality has taken 2016 by virtual storm.

Aside from the terms ad blocking and millennial it is one of the most frequently used buzzwords of 2016.

Journalist Nonny de la Peña, a pioneer in virtual reality and immersive journalism, believes that “virtual reality will join regular outlets of journalism as a new consumable platform”.

VR offers something more than traditional advertising and media. It grants “very authentic and intense reactions to situations” within a headset.

It has the ability to genuinely move people, in more ways than a film, editorial or photography. Because to your eyes, you are actually there.

In reality we have no idea what the Syrian refugees are going through on a daily basis. But with the new VR film We Wait created by Aardman for the BBC, we can experience their struggle by becoming a migrant on the perilous journey to safety and freedom. This is part of the BBC’s efforts to create more immersive news and documentary programmes.

Similarly Clouds Over Sidra was a 360 documentary experience created by Chris Milk and Gabo Arora for the United Nations in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. The experience follows a twelve-year-old girl called Sidra and gives a glimpse into her daily life. It won awards for its informative storytelling narrative, and potential for real world change.

The Guardian are offering a genuinely haunting solitary confinement experience call 6×9 for those who want to learn about the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation, asking you the simple question Could you handle it? The realistic cell design and sense of psychological deterioration led users to experiencing visual blur, the sensation of floating and hallucinations, all the sufferings of a real inmate in solitary confinement.

Understanding the way people feel is a major part of why VR is becoming so integral in creating an understanding between those who suffer and those who don’t and want to help. Alzheimer’s Research UK created A Walk Through Dementia to do just that. The experience was created in an effort to improve how we can help sufferers by putting you in their shoes.

As an educational tool virtual reality can recreate historical experiences to take students from the textbook to the event. Created by the BBC, users can tour Ancient Rome with historian Alexander Armstrong, or experience the first day of the Battle of the Somme as surviving soldiers recall their experiences.

The incredible insight and sense of emotion that can be achieved with virtual reality is unlike anything before. We are moving into a time when experience is knowledge is becoming something that we will all be privy to through programmes created with the aim of creating the most immersive experience possible. With the progression of tech like HTC Vive we are able to fully interact with our ‘surroundings’, and this technology is still in its infancy. We can expect to see VR more prominent at this years Cannes Lions, possibly with some of the experiences listed in this article.