Virtual Reality Hitting Emotions
Many people have called virtual reality an “empathy machine” as it can make people feel the story better than traditional media. So of course, savvy advertisers are seeking ways to utilize virtual reality to hit people’s emotions and drive sales.
Virtual reality enables people to experience immersive and in some cases, very exciting footage. The reality that VR can hit people’s emotions is very real, however, in order to do so, the content has to be carefully crafted. And companies don’t know exactly what that means yet considering how new this virtual reality movement is.
Companies and advertisers continue to invest lots of money into virtual reality in many cases because of its ability to make people feel certain ways. The NFL is currently testing virtual reality to train players and staff to see harassment from a different perspective and potentially feel what a victim feels.
MEC is a media agency that’s letting its employees feel what it’s like to do work at their New York offices via a 360-degree video tour. The company is doing this to help recruit new staff.
Wieden + Kennedy Portland has created virtual reality content to be used by people in wheelchairs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; it enables them to experience the activities they once loved but can no longer do, whether that’s surfing, dancing or whatever it may be. And of course, if someone hasn’t experience something before, they can experience in a way, for the first time, by utilizing virtual reality. There have been several studies by researchers that have shown that virtual reality can in fact produce empathy. There was an experiment recently at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The experiment showed that young people who have experienced a virtual reality simulation through an old person’s perspective, had lower signs of ageism. Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of the Interaction Lab and the co-founder of the VR company Strivr, said, “Many of our research projects suggest that immersive experiences are fundamentally different from other media in a variety of ways, including empathy building.”
There was another study that happened recently for virtual reality. This study was in the United Kingdom and it discovered that virtual reality can actually help fight depression. Subjects helped to comfort a distressed virtual kid before they watched the identical interaction from the kid’s perspective and that helped them feel a bit better.
Chris Brewin, a professor of clinical psychology at University College London and one of the study’s authors, said, “I don’t know of any other way to obtain the same embodiment effect with whole avatars. You can ask people to imagine the situation, but in VR, embodiment appears to happen spontaneously.”
Anrick Bregman, a VR and interactive film director at UNIT9, said, “It is very powerful as a storytelling device.
Certainly, that sense that your body is connected to the way that you’re experiencing the film – the fact that your actual muscles are activating. It’s a really strong emotive experience, as opposed to viewing a film where you’re flat on the couch.”
An Executive Producer of Framestore VR Studio, Christine Cattano, was shocked by how intensely people responded to HBO’s Game of Thrones “Ascend the Wall” VR experience. She said, “I’ve produced some really cool shit in the past, but I’ve never seen the reactions of people like that coming out of an experience or even a piece of content that I’ve produced. Even the best movies, you don’t see people reacting that way.”