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Augmented reality is the use of computer graphics to change what you’re experiencing — take Pokémon Go as a prime example — whereas virtual reality is about digital immersion, in which your full visual surroundings are changed, often via headset.
A powerful example of the social power of VR in increasing empathy is that of “Clouds Over Sidra,” a virtual reality film produced by the United Nations that follows a young Syrian girl through a refugee camp. The film helped the UN raise $3.8 billion at the fundraising conference where it was showed.
“I don’t know of any other medium that can really [let the user] embody a person” and live life through their eyes, said Greater Philadelphia Virtual and Augmented Reality Group (GPVAR) organizer Clayton McNeil.
In the future, he predicted, Facebook will create virtual “places” where users can talk with each other instead of writing at each other. And Snapchat already has Spectacles, the $129 glasses (or $150 for the 2.0 version, released in 2018 to mixed reviews) that record Snaps from the user’s perspective.
While augmented and virtual technologies can seem inaccessible (and out of the price range) of many smaller nonprofits, there are ways to get in on these trends now before they’re widely used.
For “every successive technology, the adoption period is about five years” — which means prices and barriers to entry will drop over time, McNeil said.
Below: Drexel University professor Nick Jushchyshyn show 2018 Tech in the Commons attendees how to record a VR video with a Vuze VR camera.
Place-based nonprofits can use augmented and virtual reality to show off the best features of their physical surroundings, increasing engagement on their web platforms — and, hopefully, increasing visitors to the space itself.
That’s exactly what Visit Philadelphia did when it launched its 360-degree virtual platform in early 2017, said Kristina Jenkins, the nonprofit’s digital content director. The platform gives potential visitors an immersive view of a city’s best features, including landmarks such as the Art Museum steps and Elfreth’s Alley. (We’re setting aside the debate about whether systems like Google Cardboard have all the qualities that make up pure virtual reality, like full-motion tracking.)
Here are Jenkins’ tips for nonprofits looking to take on a similar project:
There are a handful of AR/VR tech tools that are currently available at reasonable prices, as shared by Jushchyshyn:
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