Nope, it’s not porn. Not quite. One tech-production agency is using virtual reality to promote safe sex. And it’s working
To get in bed with a supermodel is the sort of flight of fancy that, for most people, will always be a dream. Until now. A new, LA-based studio TDO Productions is harnessing the power of virtual reality to make up-close-and-personal experiences with beautiful models accessible to everyday folk. No, this is not one of the burgeoning porn-VR exploits that we’ve heard so much about lately: this stylishly shot experience is for a good cause.
HIV-Aids awareness non-profit Designers Against Aids (DAA) hired TDO Productions to make this VR experience, in which models whisper sweet nothings and safe-sex advice into the viewers’ ears, to educate and raise funds for HIV-awareness programs.
VR, the invention of science fiction that enables a person to experience an alternative, virtual realm, is fast entering the mainstream. While still in its infancy and, at the moment, very much the domain of male-gamers – a target demographic for this campaign – the number of VR users has been forecast to reach 171 million by 2018.
Early next year, the Oculus Rift – the crowdfunded virtual reality headset acquired by Facebook last year – hits the market worldwide. There are already a few other headset devices available, with Samsung’s Gear VR, generally considered the best and most reasonably priced.
“VR is the most powerful storytelling medium we have ever had. It allows you to time travel, teleport, switch avatars. And it makes one-on-one communication 100 times more powerful”
Because VR enables users to have fully immersive, sensory experiences, according to Gentry Lane, founder of TDO Productions, it’s “the most powerful storytelling medium we have ever had. It allows you to time travel, teleport, switch avatars. It makes one-on-one communication 100 times more powerful.”
For this reason, VR is a mighty tool for social good and perfect for organisations and charities wanting new and innovative ways to get their messages across, adds Lane. VR inspires empathy because it enables viewers to walk in someone else’s shoes – literally.
Lane set up TDO Productions – which stands for ‘Truc De Ouf’, Parisian slang for something crazy, awesome or epic – in September. The 12-person agency works with NGOs, charities, social causes and CSR initiatives. In addition to DAA’s campaign, TDO Productions has been working with Target Zero, an organisation that aims to reduce the number of animals killed in shelters.
Speaking to Collectively mid-shoot, Lane says the VR experiences she shoots always aim to be positive and uplifting. With VR being such an intense medium, she doesn’t want them to be detrimental to anyone, or bombard anyone with negative imagery. Horror, she says, is an already emergent VR genre but not something she’s interested in.
Still, with VR so niche, and very much in the experimental phase, wouldn’t it be easier for NGOs, charities and social causes to use other, more established, platforms, such as YouTube, with its enormous audience, rather than making content only likely to be viewed by tech-loving early-adopters?
Actually, no, claims Lane. Precisely because VR is so nascent, there are very few experiences out there, which means a really good one will easily stand out from the crowd and have the potential to reach a growing audience. Fully committed to the medium, Lane says there are about 200 experiences out there and she’s watched them all. “VR is killing it at the moment,” she explains. “It will easily have millions of viewers in the next few months.”