VR for Good: Oculus Launches New Nonprofit Initiative

Eyeing a plan to bring virtual reality to the masses and drive its potential for social change, the Facebook-owned virtual-reality headset maker Oculus is launching a new program to bring the technology to both students and nonprofits.

Nonprofit initiatives by technology firms aren’t unheard of: Companies as diverse as Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have programs designed to help charitable nonprofits achieve their goals, even on tight budgets.

Virtual reality (VR), though? That’s new territory for nonprofits. But Oculus is ready to change that. This week the Facebook-owned company announced a new program, VR for Good, that will enable nonprofits and students to use the technology to bring attention to their causes. The initiative, which aims to highlight the benefits of using VR in storytelling, will start with two pilot programs, one of which will pair 10 rising filmmakers with 10 nonprofits to create 360-degree VR videos.

According to USA Today, the company is spending $1 million on the effort, which it hopes will jumpstart interest in VR as an artistic medium.

“Projects like this are going to bear fruit in the very long run,” Oculus Head of Video Eugene Wei told the newspaper.

The filming process will begin during a two-day boot camp at Facebook’s headquarters in July, and the final results will be put on display at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

“Virtual reality has unlimited potential for gaming and entertainment, but it’s also a powerful way to drive important social change,” the company wrote in a blog post this week. “Filmmakers everywhere see this and are pushing the boundaries of cinematic VR to tell stories with an impact. There’s also a large community of nonprofit organizations eager to embrace VR as a tool to raise awareness for causes in need of a voice.”

The company’s other pilot program will allow students at nine high schools in the San Francisco Bay area to create short VR movies of their own—with the help of professional filmmakers, of course.

The initiative will begin accepting applications from budding filmmakers and nonprofits on May 30. Those who want to express their creativity for an important cause should sign up at the VR for Good website.

(Michael Coghlan/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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