Nonny – the Godmother of VR/AR
Through technologies such as Virtual Reality we are able to experience real situations in a virtual world. By using this technology, we are able to convey stronger and more realistic stories. Nonny de la Peña, founder and CEO of Emblematic Group is called the Godmother of VR and AR.
Emblematic Group is a digital media company focused on immersive virtual, mixed and augmented reality. Since 2004, De la Peña has experimented with different kinds of virtual realities and is also one of the greatest contributors to the genre of Immersive Journalism.
You don’t experience the world as flat you experience the world as volume – why shouldn’t media be that way?
– Nonny de la Peña, Founder & CEO of Emblematic Group
VR as fictional storytelling conveying important messages
De la Peña has chosen to focus on certain events that she finds important to communicate to the public. The effects of global warming, a real life beating, the war in Syria and discrimination against certain groups are some examples. De la Peña and her team create stories with the help from real audio recording, interviews with witnesses or people involved and photographs stitched together to create a 360 degrees video.
Nonny de la Peña at her seminar at SXSW, 2018
Real life beating…
One example of her projects is the recreation of a real life beating. With real audio recordings from the event when a refugee got beaten to death by a
group of policemen. Virtual reality was created with the help from people who saw the event and could communicate how it was, how it felt and what actually happened – creating a realistic scenario of the horrifying event.
Besides telling stories like this one, VR can also be used to convey a certain message. One example is a virtual world where you sit in a helicopter flying over Greenland. You get to see the glaciers and a 360 video enables you to look out the window and down, really feel like you are flying. Time lapses of the glacier retreat is a powerful way of showing the severe effects of global warming.
DID YOU KNOW?
Immersive journalism can be described as the production of news in a form where people can gain first-person experiences of the event or situation described in the news. The fundamental idea is to allow the participant, typically represented as a digital avatar, to actually enter a virtually recreated scenario.
Another example is a virtual situation created to communicate the serious conditions of homelessness in the LHBTQ community. A young man has been thrown out by his family as a result of coming through with his sexuality. The scene is putting the audience in the middle of a moment when he feels physical vulnerable – and is surrounded by people that hate him because of his sexuality. A very strong scene that make the participant connect to Daniel, due to the threatening surroundings, and his lack of ability to defend himself.
…and going to prison
Nonny de la Peña has also created a virtual reality world of a prison, where you can meet a former prisoner and be in the cell with him. You can see his physical state and experience his emotional condition. The digital sense and presence is powerful and it is assimilated with real life components and built on real stories from victims and interviews with the people involved.
Our minds do not know the difference between VR and real life
The way of conveying stories through VR technology wakes certain questions regarding ethics and how these impressions are affecting people’s minds. De la Peña argue that the ethical issues are much the same as other journalism and therefore we need critical thinking and to teach everyone to look at the source. Some events can however be both unpleasant and scary – and the mind cannot in certain circumstances understand that it is a fictive event or if it is a real-life event.
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