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Oculus announces VR for Good initiative to help students and non-profits capture community life

TechCrunch TechCrunch 16/05/2016 Lucas Matney

For all of the talk there is in how virtual reality is going to usher in some dark, utopian age where people are huddled in corners with VR headsets strapped to their faces… That’s just not where things are headed right now.

VR has a lot of impact for social change. We’ve talked about VR as an engine for empathy. Now, Oculus is specifically looking to turn VR into a medium for social change through their new VR for Good initiative meant to inspire “the next generation of VR creators.”

The company, that is of course owned by Facebook, is looking to begin their push by targeting Bay Area high schools through a six-week program called the 360 Filmmakers Challenge, which is partnering the students with professional filmmakers to put together short, 360-degree films focused on what life in their communities looks like.

The students in the program will get access to all of the tools they need to make great content, including a Samsung Gear VR, a Galaxy S6, Ricoh Theta S 360 cameras and all of the software they need to stitch, edit and export their footage.

The company is also focusing efforts on a second initiative called 360 Bootcamp for Nonprofits, a program aimed at connecting aspiring filmmakers and powerful non-profits to build content that communicates their missions and the obstacles they’re up against.

The program is initially targeting up to ten different non-profits who will start this VR filmmaking journey with a two-day bootcamp at Facebook HQ where they’ll learn from some of the best on what it takes to build beautiful VR content. The teams will gain access to some of the most professional rigs available, making use of the industry-standard Nokia OZO cameras and all of the professional-grade editing software available.

Those taking part in the program are going to gain some pretty amazing exposure as their films will debut at Sundance 2017. Applications for the program open on May 30.

Oculus is hardly the first VR company or the craziest one, but its high visibility is giving the company an impressive amount of sway in deciding where the entire industry focuses its efforts. By shifting the focus toward inspiring social good, Oculus is allowing the conversation to drift more towards overcoming some of VR’s most pertinent accessibility and impact problems.

These programs put VR content creation power in the hands of people aiming to show what their communities are like and can use VR as a powerful medium to convey the issues that are facing them.

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