The founder and CEO of FXG takes you on a tour of his community while under government-issued quarantine.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread throughout the globe, we’ve begun to see the many effects, both major and minor, of what can essentially at this point be considered a global pandemic: the cancelation of large events and public gatherings, government-mandated quarantines, and low supplies of disinfectant equipment at nearly every store. We’ve even begun changing the way we greet our friends to ways that don’t involve a hug, high-five, or virtually any other type of physical content.
Nikk Mitchell, Founder and CEO of FXG, had been quarantined to his home in Hangzhou, China for over a month due to COVID-19. After residents were finally permitted to leave their domiciles, Mitchel took to the streets with a 360-degree camera to document how the coronavirus outbreak had impacted one of China’s most prominent tech and art hubs.
It should be noted that Mitchell is allowed to leave his house but not allowed to leave his local area, but more on that later.
Using FXG’s “Seize”, their new 360 camera capable of shooting up to 16K, Mitchell takes you on an eerie tour showing you the near-empty streets of Hangzhou, the local shopping mall with virtually no one in sight, and to deserted tourist locations normally filled with visitors taking photos, laughing, and enjoying the scenery.
Watching Mitchell’s video in webVR is an impactful experience, one that gives you a great idea of how the coronavirus has disrupted life in China. Watching the video, it felt as though I was wandering a post-apocalyptic world where I was part of a small handful of survivors left on Earth. It was genuinely a little unsettling at times.
As Mitchell narrates the experience, his voice is the only thing you hear as you look out at empty streets once alive with tourists and entertainment. Seeing a world that is almost at a standstill brings on a feeling of emptiness that creeps over you as explore more of the lonely city.
Mitchell also takes you to the FXG headquarters which is completely unoccupied; a disconcerting feeling considering the 360VR video was filmed during a normal workday. No one is on-site because all of the employees are working from home because of the quarantine; no face-to-face meetings or people hanging out in common spaces to collaborate or joke around. Through technology, however, the FXG team is able to continue its work by logging into their workstations from their respective homes, which Mitchell points out in the video.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus has been crippling many companies throughout the globe. Mitchell and his team were careful to not let this happen to them. “With a little bit of creativity, some technology, and a lot of perseverance, we’ve figured out how to keep moving while the world around us was shutting down,” said Mitchell in an official statement.
Being that FXG is a 360 production and localization agency based out of China, one of their biggest goals is to do their part in connecting the Chinese XR ecosystem with the rest of the world, and vice versa, which is why they created this virtual experience.
Max Noir, Head of US Operations for FXG, took a moment to talk with VRScout saying, “We understand that the coronavirus is on everybody’s minds during this difficult time and that people are worried about it,” Noir continues, “Since our team in China has already gone through the quarantine process, survived it, and learned from it, we’d like to share our experience with the rest of the world to hopefully lend some hope to a situation that may feel desperate.”
Near the end of the 360VR experience, Mitchell is near a government checkpoint where a health official checks his temperature to make sure he doesn’t have a fever. Through an app, the official can see where Mitchell has been within the community. By signing into this system, Mitchell is able to leave his home and walk around his community, go shopping, and interact with others who are also under quarantine.
Yes, Mitchell and other residents of his community are giving up some privacy, but this process is the only way for them to leave their homes. FXG’s 360VR video shows you how the Chinese government is utilizing modern technologies to keep everyone safe during the coronavirus outbreak.
I actually talked with Mitchell back in February, who at the time was not under quarantine, but was hiding at home to keep safe from the virus. He told me that VR was helping him stay connected with friends and the outside world. “I have gone to great talks, and met dozens of cool new people, all while safe in the comfort of my home,” said Mitchell.
This epidemic shows the dangers and risks of the real world. Events around the world are being canceled for safety reasons. VR shows that even under quarantine you are still able to lead a semi-normal life. You don’t need a physical space to socialize, work or run a conference. Activities like HTC’s V2EC2020 prove that conferences can be done virtually, and is also leading organizers to rethink of the costs (personal and environmental) of running big physical events.
Though many of you may not be under quarantine, the reality is COVID-19 is spreading at a rapid rate, meaning you should be prepared for potential lockdown. Just recently, the entire country of Italy was put under quarantine, and New York recently established a “Containment Zone” in Rochester. Perhaps this video will give you a better idea of what to expect should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.
If you’re looking to connect with Mitchell to keep him company, you can usually find him hanging out in AltspaceVR at various events and socializing around the campfire. You can also find him on Instagram documenting life under quarantine through the eyes of his dog, Yoshi.
Feature Image Credit: FXG