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Virtual Reality (VR) in the Public Interest….

Tomorrow we’re driving down to Games for Change in NYC. As usual, I’m thinking about VR-in-the-public interest and how we can differentiate gaming from the many other ways we can learn, share, create and teach VR. At the Public VR Lab, we’ve been teaching our community and beyond for over a year now to use new tools and equipment for community storytelling, immersive journalism, and documentary filmmaking in order to heal from trauma and to create awareness and action around the health of our planet. Here’s a few of this week’s highlights and resources we’ve seen so far in the space.

On the content creation side, our team is learning how we can deploy content, trainings and toolkits to our members, community of media makers and to share with other colleagues. While this may seem something drawn from the 1992 novel “Snow Crash” and its “metaverse,” it means the beginning of public creation tools and a door to many new social, creative and possibly economic platforms/spaces that are sure to follow for an almost ready VR-ready world. This might be the closest thing to Dreamweaver for VR that we’ve seen to date. P.S Snow Crash is a must-read.

Start Building Your VR Second Life in Sansar

Empathy-producing content can help us to understand what it is like to “be” a tree, or understand what it might be like to be in the body of another, and to feel “presence” that helps you to put yourself outside of your own experience. Feeling empathy inside of VR can even move us to action on issues like social and environmental justice in the “real” world.

VR-related technologies can help shape beautiful new ways we see ourselves, our current reality, and can shift our perception of what truth and reality are. VR can help us experience and understand many things from visceral perspectives that embody the experience of the “other.”

Tree, is a virtual-reality project that transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and your body as the trunk, you’ll experience the tree’s growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. Tree elevates the concept of empathy in VR, helping the participant understand what it’s like to be a tree in the Amazon. I particularly love the redwood version of this created by Marshmallow Laser Feast (I so love this name!) with a haptic feedback vest that makes you feel like you are entering inside the tree. 

And this project, RIOT  whose filmmaker, Karen Palmer, will speak at our favorite festival for storytelling, the Future of Storytelling in NYC this October. According to FOST, she was inspired by the events in Ferguson, MO, following the shooting of Michael Brown, and created RIOT, an emotionally responsive, live-action film that uses AI and machine learning through facial recognition to allow participants to navigate though a dangerous riot. Palmer’s work challenges participants to understand other people’s lived experiences, and represents a powerful development in the emerging field of neurogames.

Another area of VR-in-the-public interest growth is in the health sector, and how VR can make us “think” differently and even heal from trauma. This New York Times had a great story today about the use of VR by therapists to heal patients from the fear and trauma of car accidents, the fear of heights, flying, spiders, PTSD, and other forms of anxiety and stress.

And lastly, the team at the Public VR Lab sat in on an insightful VRARA webinar a few weeks ago hosted with Robert Scoble as he shared his always intriguing insights about where tech and VR in particular is headed (here). Check it out!

What Do You Want to Create at the Public VR Lab?

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2017 VR Ecohack Highlight Reel

“Help us, Ecohackers, you’re our only hope.” VR Eco Hack 2017

[Above: Co-founder of the Public VR Lab, Kathy Bisbee, transforms into a Princess Leia hologram to promote the first ever VR Ecohack.]

Join us for the VR EcoHack, a regional hackathon in Brookline, MA on April 21-23rd, 2017 where teams of students and adults can create climate change content in virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 video.

Sign up here:

We’ll have lesson plans from educators with a focus on science and media literacy that attendees can follow to develop content, and mentors and volunteers will be available all weekend to help inspire and guide teams.

Bring a formed team or meet new teammates at this hackathon to create and test your stories and games on multiple headsets, including HTC VIVEs, Hololens, Oculus, PSVR, Samsung Gear, and more.

Use the Public VR Lab’s 360 cameras, computer labs, television studios, and 3D asset libraries to create your team’s content. Food, fun and ample caffeine. Cash and awesome equipment prizes will be provided in all three categories. [Above: *free Vr EcoHack stickers to all!]

Participants over 13 and of all levels of VR, AR and 360 experience are encouraged to sign up.

NEW TO VR? If you’re new to VR, we welcome you to sign up for a FREE week-long pre-bootcamp beginning on Tuesday, April 18 through Friday, April 21st to help you learn new skills in 3D object creation, 360 video, Unity, VR illustration tools, Simmetri, and learn the basics of Aframe to create content in Web VR.

Please sign up directly on our web site linked here for the VR bootcamp.

Read more about the Hackathon at or sign up!

Thanks to the VR EcoHack partners: Brookline Interactive Group, The Public VR Lab, Boston VR, Teach for America, Wayfair, Fasility, VR Doodler, Mass Media Literacy,, LearnLaunch, VR at MIT, the Brookline Public Schools, Lifeliqe, Simmetri, VR- Before It’s Too Late, the VR/AR Association, ROTU, and the Transformative Culture Project.