VRability – Virtual Reality Helps People With Disabilities Get Inspired By Immersing Effecteffect
First Russian 360 social good project has finished the first stage of realisation and is going wider to make a difference for people with disabilities.
Over 320 000 people in Russia use wheelchairs and even more worldwide. Some of them are individuals who expand their limits every day. Telling the stories of famous people with disabilities can change the common perspective on people using wheelchairs. Russian documentary project VRability gets over the stereotypes by using VR 360 technology. It immerses viewers in the bright moments of the characters’ lives and makes them wish to be more active in real life. Visual material will offer audience an opportunity to watch Paralympic sport, wheelchair dancing, flying on a hang-glider, skiing and skydiving.
VRability as a project was launched in Spring 2015 by film director, Vice President of the Russian Documentary Guild, Georgy Molodtsov and engineer Stanislav Kolesnik. One of the characters Maxim Kiselev has disability since he was born and he is one and only professional figure ice skater on wheelchair. He plays tennis and appears in TV-shows. What he want to tell with his performance is that there is no boadrders for those who want to live full life.
The idea of showing the potential of wheelchair-bound people was not accidental — Georgy Molodtsov had worked as a film director with an organization for people with disabilities and created dozens of social advertising campaigns and films about people with disabilities.
Engineer and technical director of the project, Stanislav Kolesnik understood the problem of limited mobility first-hand — after an accident, he lost his mobility for over six months, and VR was one of the methods used to stimulate his brain activity and help him regain some nerve sensitivity in his body as well as confidence in his recovery. The most widely used concept of watching VR (sitting in a spinning chair) takes the viewer one step closer to the experience of someone in a wheelchair.
Stanislav Kolesnik detalised: «There are many stereotypes about limits of people with disabilities. After experiencing it myself, I wanted to change this perspective. So, to get over the boundaries of stereotypes, we decided to get out of the regular film frame and immerse our audience in all 360 degrees of storytelling.
Project consists of several short VR documentaries about people with disabilities, as well as series of experiences, where one can try one of the activities of the project protagonists. Example of VRability content – wheelchair figure ice skating performed by Maxim Kiselev:
While VR and 360 are not so common in Russia, social subject of the project and innovative VR-tools combined made VRability well supported with Russian media and made VR360 technology widely recognized as a social good tool before it came to a mass entertaining and advertising market. Project content was shown in over 30 central venues of 15 cities in Russia. It was the first VR-experience for more than 3 000 people.
During the filmmaking process creators came up with unique editing techniques and found the new way for 360-camera mounting. Georgy Molodtsov said: «The art of editing is a combination of methods based on the psychology of the viewer’s interpretation of visual information. A balance of close-up and wide shots, statics and dynamics, color solutions or separations — all of these are aspects of editing that are acquired with experience of working in traditional film and might be used in VR as well». You can explore more on http://bit.ly/2b0VDiR
Virtual reality has become increasingly popular since last year, when it became available for almost everyone. The technology used to require expensive headsets, with wires connected to a PC, is now available for a wide range of viewers. Now, it is enough to have a modern smartphone with built-in Gyro and cardboards or HMD to view VR-videos. VRability is easy to watch – just use a smartphone with Youtube App and VR-headset. Over hundred of Google Cardboards were donated to Russian biggest disability organization «Perspektiva» and its members.
Project content was distributed through a mobile-friendly web-site, providing VR experiences and additional information about characters and available real life activities. Project partners, including GoPro (Yuma Company Russia), FIBRUM, as well as support of Kolor, Mettle, several non-profits really helped to make this project possible with minimal budget. Mentorship in disability subject provided by “Perspektiva” and “Enabling Technologies” programs helped VRability team use the right communication and reach the right audience. Making and presentation of one of the experiences to people with disabilities:
One of the outcomes of the project was the appearance of the First VR-Film Festival “EMC VR Film Fest”, co-organized by Georgy Molodtsov, where one of VRability films was premiered, as well as 30 other films in three different nominations including Student VR Lab with simultaneous screening of the content on up to 65 Samsung Gear VR devices.
«This project is an experiment, which brought together specialists with different background to do something, what other people are not ready to do yet. We’ve started working on VRability at the times when quite a small amount of people knew what 360 videos and VR are. Along with reaching a social good goal, this project helped to widen the market for professionals in VR360 production» – says Dmitry Agutin, producer of the project.
Maria Milshina, PR-director of VRability:
«Now we are working on the second phase of the project, which includes creation of VR films for specific non profits to help them get more fundrising, as well as creation of Cardboard distribution network with the social enterprise model, when one can buy our branded cardboard for himself and it would include the cost of the cardboard, which we would deliver to people with disabilities through network of our partners – disability organisations in Russian regions».
Find out more on the website VRability.ru