The experience of the Lonely Whale is truly that: lonely. Beneath the water, the user hears a "lonely whale" calling out at 52 Hz - a frequency unrecognised by other whales - which seems to live alone, communicating with no one. Through the underwater VR expedition, users experience what it means to be a lonely ocean creature navigating obstacles like noise, plastic pollution, acidification, and overfishing. And by experiencing this story, we are able to confront loneliness and connect with one another, our environment, and ourselves.
Journalist and documentary filmmaker Nonny de la Peña, founder of Los Angeles-based Emblematic Group, is on a mission to use VR to show stories that promote deep empathy for viewers. For the past eight years, she has been building VR that uses a fully embodied walk-around technology to offer a virtual but "first hand" sensation of being an actual witness as a story unfolds.
For example, de la Peña explains, there is a tangible impact of being able to feel a story through the whole body and not just through the mind. Standing on a street in Syria when a bomb goes off, the participant can more fully understand the plight of Syrian refugees; being in the room with two sisters as they try, unsuccessfully, to protect a third sibling from an ex-boyfriend's fatal attack, the true horror of domestic violence and guns is revealed; or being "virtually" present at the brutal beating of a handcuffed immigrant may allow people to question U.S. Border patrol 'Use of Force' protocols.
"It is clear to me that being able to feel a story deeply can only help create positive social impact," de la Peña said. "And that impact is important to a healthy democracy in that if younger audiences are accustomed to having a digital presence, VR offers one of the best ways to inform and educate. The more knowledge a voter has, the better global citizen they will be."
VR can bring extraordinary behavior change to individuals, groups and organisations interested in experiencing and sharing its powerful benefits. VR, as field, is on an important mission to share truths that move people's hearts, and bring about profound and lasting change for humanity. This is possible through the partnerships and vision of companies and organisations that bring the most cutting-edge technology to this virtual table. And that's the reality.
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