Immersive experience of being a refugee with a Google Cardboard

War has driven 30 million children out of their home. This is the story of 3 of them.

The New York Times has brought out a virtual reality app for mobile phones with a 360 degree documentary that let’s you experience what is like to be a refugee. The documentary is short and shows you snippets of three different children in the Ukraine, Syria and Sudan. It’s a haunting short film. The music is not there to comfort, but to give a canvas of greater stillness filled with uncertainty about the futures and the still persisting hope for a better future.

I watched it in virtual reality, on a better version of a Google cardboard (€40) and my iPhone4S (previous phone of my husband, before he got the newer gadget ;)).

It feels like as if I was biking in the midst of young boys to their primary school that was bombed in the Russian-Ukrainian war. I also had the wobbly feeling in the stomach as the camera rolled over the uneven roads. I had the uncanny feeling of being watched when I rowed the boat with a 9 year old boy through a swamp in Sudan. I had the cheery feeling at the end of a long work day of 12 year old girl on the back of a truck in Lebanon.

Despite the fact that I was watching this with technically low end VR gear, I had a strong visceral experience compared when I watched it flat on the screen. This is how media will change and let us experience news with body and mind.

I can’t wait to experience the first VR coaching apps. Talking with developers now about the first demo, discussing 3D models vs real 360 degree film. Once we got the agreement in place the demo will be developed. It will be a free download because we want you to experience it. And we want your feedback. How you loved or hated it and what can be improved.

Sincerely yours,

Nadja Muller-den Blijker