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#VRforGood — How VR Technology Can Be Used to Support Nonprofits

At Foundry 45, we are passionate about finding opportunities to use VR technology for the greater good. In the spirit of the Holiday Season we want to share the story of one of our employees, Dana, who is doing just that. 

Keep reading to discover how Dana used her knowledge of VR technology to bring awareness to a cause close to her heart and helped an amazing organization, Development in Gardening (DIG) share their story.

Dana’s Story: The Beginning of DIG 

November 2017, Dana attended a fundraiser event for a friend, Sarah Koch, who passionately carries out humanitarian work in Africa. Her work is founded on breaking the cycle of hunger so vulnerable communities can harvest a better future. 

After attending the local Atlanta event and becoming aware of the challenges in food security occurring overseas, Dana felt moved to do anything she could to help the organization. 

This desire sparked a conversation between Dana and Sarah about what could be done to further support Sarah’s work in Africa. On a mission to help, Dana began researching online and came across the Google Daydream Impact program. 

The premise was simple: You apply for an award and, if chosen, Google would let you borrow their equipment to create a VR experience that would help tell your story. Sadly, the program is now defunct, but it was a great opportunity at the time. 

DIG was selected to participate, and together Dana and Sarah began to cultivate the story they wanted to tell about the Batwa tribe. 

With the Yi Halo VR camera gear in hand, Dana, Sarah, and another friend Jason Drakeford traveled to Southeast Uganda to begin their work, documenting the stories of three members of the Batwa tribe:


– Bosco, Kerema and Sumaco

The Batwa Tribe

The 3-part story focuses on 3 members of the Batwa tribe. It begins deep in the equatorial rainforests of Central Africa, one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. This dense canopy of The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest breathes rich oxygen into the world, stabilizes climates, and provides critical rainfall for the region.

As the first human inhabitants of this forest, the Batwa were skilled small game hunters and foragers. For thousands of years, this resourceful indigenous tribe lived in harmony with the forest, as a part of the ecosystem. That was until the Ugandan government stepped in…

Due to ecological stress from over-farming, population growth, and the illegal poaching of the mountain gorillas, the international community pressured the Ugandan government to protect the endangered great apes and their remaining forest habitat. 

At a time when humans and conservation were considered adversarial, the Batwa were forced to leave their ancestral home, and, in 1992, their long and often violent eviction became final. 

Sadly, the Batwa faced continuous trauma due to their removal from their homeland, and, in spite of the promises, no meaningful efforts were made to accommodate their relocation. While they were assured compensation, they received little, if anything, for their loss. Deprived of their skills and their culture, this highly marginalized group were now forced to live without means.

The forest’s edge is a sharply defined line that dominates the landscape. The dense, dark forest ends abruptly, playing a tug-of-war with vast lands cleared by logging and agriculture.  For the exiled Batwa, this line also divides the past from the present, a world protected from a world exposed. 

To this day, the Batwa are the only group forbidden from entering their former forest home without special permission from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Sadly, they can be arrested, fined, or even killed if found trespassing.

With little economic opportunity, the Batwa have become conservation refugees, often risking their lives entering the forest to illegally harvest green bamboo and other forest products for trade on the local black market. 

Fetishized and shunned because of diminutive stature, the Batwa people have endured physical and emotional trauma in their new surroundings. Many have been forced into begging, prostitution, and scavenging, along with suffering high rates of alcoholism. 

Making up only 0.3% of the Ugandan population, the Batwa have little recognition by their government. Disease, poverty, and malnutrition have reduced the Batwa’s life expectancy to estimates as low as 28 years of age, with a depressing 59% infant mortality rate.

Since their exile from the forest, many Batwa have died, threatening the tribe’s very existence. The tribe’s population has decreased over the years to only 6,700 people throughout Africa.

Dana brings to life the struggles that the Batwa people faced while showcasing the work that DIG is doing to help teach the Batwa how to make the most of the land they live on through a self-directed journey to plant gardens that grow health, wealth, and a sense of belonging.

How VR Technology Helps Tell the Story of the Batwa Tribe

During their time in Uganda working with the Batwa people, a story unfolded that is based on three intertwined real-life characters. 

The first story is based on a character named Kerema. This story showcases a mother learning to cultivate her garden, making a better life for her young children. 

The second is based on an elder of the tribe named Sumaco as he tries to hold onto his past life in the forest and pass his knowledge onto a teen within the tribe, Bosco.

The third, of course, focuses on Bosco. Bosco is a teen who is torn as he watches some his peers succumb to the pressures of moving away from their homeland in pursuit of a better life. He holds onto the teachings of DIG to make a richer life for his family by literally digging into the earth which has always been his home. 

The stereoscopic 360 video footage that was captured is gritty, beautiful, and almost surreal. The steeply pitched landscape adds an amazing background to these incredible stories.

Since getting back to the United States, Dana, Jason, and a former Georgia State University, CMII student, Dylan Banning have worked on pulling together the content that was captured to create a VR experience that will immerse the viewer in the life of the Batwa tribe members. Through the power of VR, this video is being edited for DIG to share with two main goals in mind:

Goal #1 – Use immersive technology to create an experience in which people can walk side-by-side with the Batwa people…an experience that would help open the eyes of people to the vast needs of this struggling community. 

Goal #2 – Use VR tech to help create an emotional connection between DIG’s supporters and the Batwa to grow their understand how their financial contributions are truly making a difference and to gain more traction for DIG to further support the Batwa tribe.

How VR Technology Can be Used for Supporting Nonprofit Work 

If you work for a nonprofit, you’re likely on the lookout for new opportunities to increase the support coming into your organization. VR technology just might be the solution.

First and foremost, virtual reality technology enables you to tell stories in ways you’ve never been able to before. This is due to immersive storytelling capabilities. 

No longer will a room full of people have to sit and listen to you read and show pictures about your cause. Instead, anyone who is interested in offering support can literally be transported and step foot into the world of the people you are helping. 

This is such a powerful method as storytelling allows you to physically show people how their money is being put to work. 

Second, this type of technology is highly effective in bringing awareness to problems that are occurring around the world. 

It’s one thing to hear about a problem that’s going on half-way around the globe, but when you can step foot and walk amongst a community of people and realize that their daily struggles suddenly become part of your reality. 

The future of using VR technology to make a positive difference in the world is bright, and we are so grateful that Dana has been able to be a part of it, alongside other great filmmakers. 

If you’re a nonprofit, we highly encourage you to look into how this medium might be helpful as you work to raise funds and grow awareness for the causes that are near and dear to your heart. 

To learn more about DIG and how they are using VR technology to further support this cause, we invite you to check out DIG and consider donating to help them further the great work they are doing throughout Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal.

Find Value in VR Training your Workforce

As mentioned in the first of our VR Training blog posts a few weeks back, major brands like KFC, WalMart, and Volkswagen have already begun integrating VR into their employee training programs. While virtual reality experiences can prove extremely versatile and of course – COOL, convincing the C-level that VR is worth the investment is another story.

Sure, there’s value in offering your employees an interesting, virtual experience because of the sheer “chatter-factor” alone. That isn’t going to convince anyone that VR training is the better route, though, unless you can deliver a true reduction in costs and processes. Most training managers also need to show that there will be a recognizable increase in performance and on-boarding for new staff.

At Foundry 45, we have helped global organizations streamline their corporate training programs using mixed reality applications. In skilled trade industries such as welding, plumbing, security, and equipment repair, the value that VR training provides goes far beyond reducing travel costs due to shipping employees around the world. It can also mean that money doesn’t have to be spent on materials to practice on and it allows trainees to repeat work tasks as much as they need to, which means eliminating a lot of costly mistakes on the job site.

Foundry 45 VR Training Demonstration

Below are a few reasons how VR can complement or entirely replace your existing training program:

  1. Your trainees can learn process sequences inside a virtual environment that is true-to-scale and representative of their actual workplace which helps speed up the learning process;
  2. VR training is a cost-saving measure that reduces employee downtime, travel costs, and equipment depreciation;
  3. Management can review VR experiences and test results through automated reports that help position employees for future growth;
  4. VR training can reduce the risk of on-site training accidents, especially when learning how to operate hazardous machinery;
  5. Learning with VR is memorable and fun. Employees are more likely to retain information if organizations provide quality education while on the job site.

If some or all of these points above resonate with you, the next step would be to imagine exactly what type of VR-enabled training most suits your business needs. Integrating VR training into your program can be extremely powerful and save your organization time and money, while improving overall employee productivity by leveraging an engaging and powerful set of new tools.

Be sure to check back for our next post on VR Training in the next few weeks. Our team has years of experience working with organizations that have elevated their operations using VR and AR. From content strategy to distribution of immersive experiences, Foundry 45 provides the viewing solutions for various levels of experiences ranging from easily distributable cardboard to room-scale, interactive VR training environments.

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com.

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Google Cardboard vs Samsung GearVR Virtual Reality Headsets

The two most accessible platforms for Virtual Reality (VR) content right now are Google Cardboard and Samsung’s GearVR. Both only require a mobile phone to operate.

How do they work?
gearvr_vs_cardboard_lenses

Both use a smartphone as the display, and have lenses that make the small screen fill your entire field of view. The phone sensors are used to detect where you’re looking so that a Virtual Reality app can update the display.

Overall Performance and Compatibility
GearVR provides a high-end experience. The lens are bigger and the headset is specifically designed and tuned for a number of the latest Samsung phones, including Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+. These high end phones provide high resolution, fast updates to head movements, and large screens–overall a very immersive experience.

As opposed to the Gear VR, almost any recent smartphone will work in Google Cardboard. The more high-end smartphones in our opinion yield experiences closer to the Gear VR. An older phone with one of the earlier Cardboard designs will not have as big of screen or respond to head movements as fast which produces a less immersive experience. But no matter the platform, the first time impact using VR is almost always jaw dropping.

Cost
The current Gear VR costs $99, but also requires a new Samsung phone, which range from $600 – $900 off contract. Google Cardboard in single units costs about $20, but can get down to $5 in quantity.

Use Cases

branded_cardboard_virtual_reality

Custom branded cardboard virtual reality viewers

Many companies custom print Cardboard as a giveaway or mailer. Cardboard provides a way for a brand to connect with an exciting new technology, and give a customer a branded takeaway that they can continue to use with many other apps.

virtual_reality_trade_show_gear_vr

Gear VR is best for trade shows or in-person visits. Check out our blog post on how to best use a Gear VR at your next trade show!

Whether Cardboard or Gear VR, companies typically develop a custom app to showcase their products. For example, the New York Times produced an app that contained 360 degree videos, including one from a refugee camp. Star Wars released small videos daily in the days before release of the latest film. Several of our clients like BetterCloud or Probrew have also created Cardboard apps to showcase their experiences. Cardboard apps are usually delivered through the Apple AppStore for iPhones or Google’s Play Store for Android. Samsung has a store for Gear VR, but has so far only allowed very few apps in. This is usually not a problem, as apps can be directly installed on devices rather than going through the Samsung store.

If you have questions about how to utilize Virtual Reality for recruiting or marketing, or would like help producing a custom virtual reality app, please let us know.

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com.

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The Fastest and Most Helpful VR Webinar

Great to catch up with Tim Patterson from Tradeshow Guy about Virtual Reality (VR) opportunities for trade show events. Here, we break down the many uses of virtual reality that any company can use to create an immersive brand experience. We first dive into the types of VR, content creation, and finally the ROI from a 360-degree experience. Read the highlights or watch the full video below.

Types of VR
We’ve categorized the range of VR headsets into two buckets: mobile-based headsets that operate untethered using a mobile phone for screen and processing, and PC-based headsets that plug into a full computer for the VR processing power. Each category of headset has it’s own pros and cons, and are therefore appropriate for different use cases.

Mobile-based headsets

  • Pair goggles with a mobile smartphone
  • Utilize a headset processor to render graphics through a mobile device
  • Samsung Gear VR partners with Oculus for a more in depth experience using Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone.
  • Google Cardboard is another headset but is less expensive than the Samsung partnership. This option is great for direct branding, branded merchandise options, and branded mobile applications for users to enjoy.

PC-based headsets

  • Room Scale – HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
  • This headset uses a powerful gaming computer, and is a bit more expensive than its counterparts due to its highly immersive qualities.
  • Tilt brush by Google places users in a room filled with their own imagination to freely paint.

What will the Content Do for My Company?

  • Build excitement and draw a captivated crowd
  • Become the best medium for people to listen to an immersive message using 3D graphics
  • Takes your company from an on a screen video to endless branding possibilities.

Content Creation

  • Light Customization – Construct custom experience with existing stock footage to tell a brand story
  • Linear VR – Create custom story and custom video filmed on site, which is more powerful and specific to the target customer
  • Choose Your Own Adventure – Users choose their own path with multiple created experiences that illustrate multiple value propositions in the VR experience.

How are the 3D graphics generated?
A variety of approaches can be taken, depending on the desired results and budget. You can rely on the experienced staff at Foundry 45 to work their magic and bring your experience to life!

Here’s Why the VR Experience is Good for Your Company

  • Generates personal and brand excitement
  • Fosters stronger awareness and customers become immersed in messaging that creates higher quality in leads for companies. (Client Feedback)
  • Data shows companies increase trade show visits by 30% each year while using VR experiences as opposed to other forms of brand messaging.

VR Product Look
Some of our clients work with heavy machinery like large pumps, compressors and industrial equipment that can weigh thousands of pounds. They have successfully used VR to share equipment and factory tours at significant cost savings over their previous approaches. By foregoing a 50×50 trade show booth and product shipment fees, our clients instead use a VR experience in a smaller booth to translate stronger value propositions with greater ROI.

Let’s talk about how your company can benefit from working with Foundry 45 for your next VR experience!

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com.

Follow Us!

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