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Virtual Reality Helps People with MS Relive Their Passions

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This touching ad campaign shows how beautiful VR can be.

For people living with multiple sclerosis, many lifelong passions are put on hold because of this unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system.

For San Diego surfer Steve Bettis and New York City professional dancer and choreographer Amy Meisner, this was especially true. The two had their successful careers cut short from this disease that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

But thanks to a new awareness campaign from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the organization is using virtual reality to help them ride a wave and dance on stage again with 360-degree videos filmed through the eyes of a friend.

Filming first-person perspective surfing.

Filming 360-degree first-person perspective surfing with camera on head.

In the case of local surf legend Steve Bettis who had been surfing for decades, he was diagnosed with progressive MS in 2006 and hasn’t been able to get on the water for 10 years. But with the help of professional surfer Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and a 360-degree GoPro camera rig, Bettis was able to once again relive his passion in the water by surfing waves again.

Meisner who grew up dancing on New York City stages was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 1997. The disease changed her ability to dance like she once could, taking a toll on her mobility. This is when the Society and professional dancer LaTonya Swann teamed up to create an entirely new dance experience for Meisner through virtual reality.

In the touching video, Swann dances with a 360-degree GoPro rig attached to her head, giving Meisner the opportunity to relive her passion of dancing on stage from the dancer’s perspective. It’s a beautiful moment and Meisner is all smiles, “I dream sometimes and I see that,” referring to the VR experience.

We all know how powerful virtual reality can be for many, often being able to change people’s eating habits or overcome their fear of heights. But for some people, VR can actually bring dreams to life.

Both two-and-a-half-minute videos were created by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy Portland and released in honor of MS Awareness Week, which runs March 7-13.

Print ads will accompany the videos, as well as a social media campaign with the hashtag #WeAreStrongerThanMS.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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