The virtual tech that brings audiences to places they couldn’t visit even before the lockdown

The virtual tech that brings audiences to places they couldn’t visit even before the lockdown

The current lockdown poses exhibitions of all kinds with a new challenge. But there is an alternative that keeps audiences engaged and connected while doors are closed, as international NGO WaterAid found recently.

Digital experiences that try too literally to imitate the real thing – such as walking in 360 around an empty gallery or museum – will invite direct comparison and inevitably fall flat. Instead, there’s an opportunity to connect with audiences by creating ‘step inside’ experiences. These transport audiences to real and imagined worlds they’ve never seen before.

A ‘step inside’ experience

International sanitation and hygiene charity WaterAid used 360 interactive technology to deliver a more memorable and impactful experience.

Ben Fogarty

WaterAid held an exhibition for World Toilet Day in Geneva last November to coincide with the launch of its Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers report created in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and other leading institutions. The exhibition highlighted the plight of sanitation workers at risk and stigmatised globally, putting the issue on the agenda of senior delegates.

It’s a logical thought process: when faced with a huge number of people who couldn’t physically attend the exhibition (even before the lockdown) the charity believed the solution was bringing the exhibition space to them via 360 technology.

Going beyond an empty gallery

With 360 there's an opportunity to create experiences that not only showcase objects but are digital works of art in their own right.

Holoscribe worked with WaterAid to create a digital version of the original gallery exhibition itself, using the artwork in a different way. Users were able to step inside the worlds of sanitation workers. They could switch between scenes of good and bad working practices to understand and learn about the impacts of both scenarios on the health and well-being of sanitation workers.

The production of the experience used largely video, audio and image-based content that the charity had on file. This was combined with new artwork so users could explore the conditions of workers and better understand the environments they worked in.

As a result of the campaign content, a government representative from one of the countries featured approached WaterAid to ask how they can implement policies to protect workers. By using 360 technology, Holoscribe was able to create a digital world that inspired real change and delivered a direct emotional experience to those who stepped inside.

Replacing passive scrolling with the power to explore

Such 360 interactive technology replaces passive scrolling with the power to explore. The WaterAid example allowed audiences to explore the different scenarios faced by the sanitation workers, taking them to places they could never have seen at the physical exhibition.

WaterAid’s success story also shows how 360 technology has the potential to inspire us. Taking a child or adult into a new world can spark their imagination. Instead of asking “what digital experience can we make?” organisations should be asking “how can we use digital to enable users to create a physical or emotional experience of their own?”

This 360 technology is not simply a stopgap in this difficult situation, it should become part of the wider engagement strategy.