Virtual reality is in the eye of the beholder. Filmmaker and entrepreneur Chris Milk optimistically calls VR an “empathy machine,” while the Wall Street Journal warns that VR’s “hype is about to come crashing down.” Across this spectrum of opinion, the only thing everyone can agree on is that it’s a newly accessible medium offering novel experiences for audiences.Do these experiences lead to empathy? If you define empathy as, “knowing and feeling what another person knows and feels,” of course some VR stories do. So do some books, radio programs, and movies – each in their own way. Saying VR is an empathy machine is like saying a paintbrush is an art machine. There are myriad ways to generate aspects of empathy with media, just like there are infinite ways to create forms of art with tools.
As an organization interested in media impact, our “water cooler” chatter around the office took a different turn for April. This month, we ventured out to the Tribeca Film Festival. Many associate the festival with film, so we decided to spend our time exploring the lesser known but equally interesting side — the stories told through the interactive, immersive and virtual reality exhibits. Read on to see some of the meaningful media HI staff has been talking about from Tribeca in these emerging forms of storytelling: