‘Is Anna OK?’ Explores The Effects Of Brain Trauma Using VR

A new experience produced by the BBC examines the personal repercussions of brain trauma from different perspectives.

Is Anna OK? is a poignant VR experience based on a true story. Anna and Lauren are identical twins. For two decades these young women were as emotionally and psychologically close as two people can get.

But, in one fateful moment, their relationship is thrown upside-down. Anna has an accident, which leaves her in a coma. When she finally wakes up, her life, as well as Lauren’s, are changed forever due to a resulting brain injury.

In Is Anna OK?, you explore an emotional story from both sisters perspectives as you piece together Anna’s fragmented memories and learn whether or not these two young women can pick up the pieces of their lives.

Using extracts from months of interviews conducted by BBC News reporter Camila Ruz, the experience features narration from both of the twins, allowing each sister to explain her side of the story. Users explore fragmented memories, find clues in the objects around them, and generally immerse themselves in day-to-day world of this inseparable pair. 

The combination of factual reporting with psychological exploration makes for an interesting mix, which poses the question of how storytelling and journalism can produce new forms of immersive content.

Two participants can go through the Is Anna OK? experience together, and therefore see the two different perspectives at the same time, comparing the impact of the brain injury and resulting illness on Anna with Lauren’s struggles to help her sister cope and come to terms with how drastically their relationship has changed.

What struck me the most was hearing Lauren talk about her anger and powerlessness as she watched her sister struggle; the palpable and irretrievable sense of loss that came from watching someone she knew almost as well as herself, her nearest and dearest friend, act almost like a stranger.

The result is an emotional journey that highlights the complexity of dealing with mental health issues and trauma. Is Anna Ok? introduces some interesting possibilities for the type of content that can be used as a support tool for family, friends and carers of those affected by such injuries.

Is Anna OK? was featured at film and technology festivals across the country, including Edinburgh TV Festival, Sheffield Documentary Festival, and the 2018 Raindance Film Festival, where it was shortlisted for two awards.

Anna and Lauren’s story has been brought to life by BBC Stories in collaboration with the teams at BBC Studios Digital and Aardman Animations, and is published by BBC VR Hub.

Is Anna OK? is now available for free on the Oculus Store.

Image Credit: BBC

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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