Earlier this month Amnesty International launched its “virtual reality Aleppo” campaign designed to transport people from the streets of Britain to the devastated streets of war-torn Aleppo in Syria.
Members of the public were given the opportunity to view 360-degree images through VR headsets to become fully immersed in a powerful and heart-wrenching experience. The images, created by Syrian human rights activists working closely with Amnesty, show the districts of al-Sha’ar and Al Fardos in Aleppo after barrel bombs struck the areas earlier this year. Barrel bombs are oil barrels filled with fuel and metal fragments designed to kill and maim in an indiscriminate fashion.
The latest street VR experience was developed to connect with passers-by on a deeper emotional level and hopefully raise awareness, as well as donations. After a solid week of street fundraising using their VR headset experience, Amnesty says there has been a strong response from the public, with an over 16% increase in people signing up to direct debit donations toward Amnesty’s human rights work.
Amnesty International UK Innovations Manager Reuben Steains said:
“We always thought seeing these immensely affecting images would have a genuinely transformative effect on the person on the street, but the early results have surpassed our expectations. We’ve had a really strong response – in a couple of cases people have been in tears and others have expressed shock and outrage at what they’re seeing in the viewers.”
The “virtual reality Aleppo” experience has been a test pilot for Amnesty International. Eight VR headsets were trialed in various locations of London and now their plan is to acquire more headsets and repeat the campaign in other locations including Manchester and Leeds. The fundraising drive is meant to encourage members of the public to support Amnesty International UK and its work on Syria, including specific projects to train and equip citizen journalists and other human rights activists.
Amnesty International’s use of virtual reality and cost-effective VR headsets is a great example of mobilizing street teams to inform and educate the public in a more emotional way then just the normal printed pamphlet. Connecting the public to actually experience worlds that they may never get to visit, brings the viewer closer to the problem depicted and creates a memorable experience that they will be talking about months later.