Voice-Activated BBC VR Experience Puts You In The Shoes Of A Suffragette

Make some noise in a VR experience inspired by histories greatest women’s rights activists.

In this day and age, one could be forgiven for being somewhat disillusioned with democracy, but still, come election time, I always vote.

One of the reasons I do that without fail is because I figure that, as a woman, traveling a short distance to put a few ticks on a ballot (or even doing it from the comfort of my own home) is really the least I can do to honour the sacrifice made by people like Emmeline Pankhurst, who endured and risked so much to earn me that right.

I also figure that if more people experienced and understood some of those sacrifices, they might feel the same; which, hopefully, could have a positive effect on female turnout rates in future elections. Thankfully, BBC’s new Make Noise VR experience is here to help motivate and inspire.

The unique VR experience encourages users to follow the advice of famed British political leader Emmeline Pankhurst and ‘make more noise,’ using their own words to change the world around them via voice-activated technology.

“Inspired by the suffragettes who a century ago spoke up for a woman’s right to vote, Make Noise invites viewers to find and use their own voice and consider what it means to speak up in a world that doesn’t value it,” the news release reads.

The narrator – actor Nikki Amuka-Bird – actively inspires users to speak up as voice technology in the headset continuously detects and reacts to every sound they make.

“They’ll need to find their voice and use it to name the women that have inspired them, and to call out the objects that have oppressed women for centuries – changing the virtual environment around them as they do so,” she says

Every noise generated in the experience therefore has an effect on your virtual surroundings as you sing, hum, and shout the names of these inspirational women; sort of like casting various incantations against indifference and oppression.

The experience is available free download for the Oculus Go and is also being shown at a number of libraries and literary events across the United Kingdom. At one such event, Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great-granddaughter, had the opportunity to try it on herself and was enthusiastic about how the immersive medium really helped to bring out her ancestor’s story:

“You’re asked not just to look but to use your mind and your voice. I think that focus on the voice and your own engagement with it is incredible,” she said.

Throughout the experience users also hear BBC archive audio clips of real-life suffragettes (Edith Pepper, Charlotte Drake, Charlotte Marsh, Mary Richardson, Lillian Lenton, Victoria Liliard, Grace Roe and Elizabeth Dean) explaining how they found their own voice, and used it to change the world.

Make Noise was produced by BBC VR Hub and created by Anagram. Its director, May Abdalla, explains how they opted to use bold abstract visuals in order to make playful worlds and mess with scale, so that the aesthetics of Victorian England didn’t get in the way of the story:

“In these strange visual universes the punk attitude of these inspirational women really stands out,” she says. “Each chapter represents the emotional journey of their path to victory; from frustration though finding solidarity and resistance. “We wanted to find a way to really connect the stories of the suffragettes to our lives, and the fact is that standing up for something when people are trying to shut you down is something we all can relate to.”

Image Credit: BBC VR

About the Scout

Alice Bonasio

Alice Bonasio runs the Tech Trends blog and contributes to Ars Technica, Quartz, Newsweek, The Next Web, and others. She is also writing VRgins, a book about sex and relationships in the virtual age. She lives in the UK.

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