From the ocean’s depths to the views from space, our world offers beautiful scenes, diversity of life and jaw-dropping sights. At first we could only communicate these sights by words and stories, but technology advances have added images and color, sound and movement.
VR has different forms. An interactive still image allows navigation in all directions, such as ChurchPOP’s collected tours of “spectacular churches” (tinyurl.com/12-church-tour). Videos on a computer or mobile screen can put you on a stage during worship (tinyurl.com/360church). Add a headset and apps with that video and you are immersed in a scene, or view stored pictures and video on a theater-sized screen!
The free VR headset that came with a recent phone upgrade was too tempting for me to ignore. While units can cost as much as $600, Google has introduced an inexpensive do-it-yourself headset made of cardboard (vr.google.com/cardboard).
One exciting use for VR is nonprofits making charitable needs come alive for potential donors. Adweek recently gave examples of charities such as “Charity: Water” that offer powerful VR films (tinyurl.com/VR-causes).
RYOT films 360-degree videos around the world and garnered an Academy Award nomination for an Ebola documentary filmed in Liberia. “I think it’s not challenging to take people to a slum somewhere and say ‘Hey, don’t you feel sorry for these people,’” said Co-Founder Bryn Mooser. “The challenge is…how do you take that experience and get people to be activated to even do something about it?”
Studies by Baylor University, Stanford and The Center for Effective Philanthropy have found increased nonprofit or mission participation leads to better understanding of needs and missions, while inspiring greater commitment.
Imagine how the church can use this technology to make missions closer to firsthand experiences while increasing compassion and interest. Software and cameras are available to design a tour or film a location. It remains to be seen how Christians will use the technology to bring other locations and fellow believers closer together.
Ken Satterfield is a former media specialist and currently the advertising/marketing coordinator for Word & Way. General guides to VR and extended links can be found below.
Virtual reality 101 (CNET)
Christians and virtual reality (United Methodist Communications)
Church Online Platform (Life.Church)
‘Pikachurch’: Get thee to church to catch that Pokémon (Christian Today)