Watch: Amnesty uses VR headsets to transform London into Aleppo

Amnesty reps explain their new street fundraising tool: virtual reality headsets with 360° images of the aftermath of barrel bomb attacks in Syria.

Amnesty: uses virtual reality headsets for London fundraiser
Amnesty: uses virtual reality headsets for London fundraiser

Virtual reality can sometimes seem like an expensive way to escape into a world of fantasy, but human rights charity Amnesty found a cheap way to bring the reality of Aleppo in Syria home to Londoners.

We caught up with a street fundraising team in Russell Square who were using simple technology, consisting of repurposed smartphones and headsets which cost less that £15, to transport the public to Aleppo to see the aftermath of a barrel bomb.

Watch the video for an explanation of the technology, reaction from a member of the public and Amnesty's innovation manager detailing how the charity is training citizen journalists in Syria to take 360° images using a smartphone app, which can then be used in street fundraising efforts in a matter of days.

Video by Georgina Brazier (@georgiebrazier)

But how effective is the campaign? Amnesty reports that there was a 16% increase in donations via direct debit. Anecdotally more people are stopping to try out the new technology and many have been moved by the experience. Amnesty fundraiser Nina Franklin said:

The headsets are so immersive because you can't help draw comparisons between the street you're in and the street you see. The VR sets anchor everything: statistics, emotions, stories. Suddenly everything "over there" is so vivid and real, that's the power of the VR.

Nina Franklin, Amnesty street fundraiser

While this initial week of fundraising only used static images, Amnesty plans to incorporate audio, text-rich annotations and film in the future.