Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to some of the world-changing storytellers that will be speaking at Story Movements, our new catalytic two-day convening September 15-16, 2016 that examines platforms and genres of civic media storytelling through the lens of social justice. From documentary film to investigative journalism to virtual reality to participatory storytelling to persuasive gaming to photography, the convening examines and captures the current and future-looking moment in story-led demands for social change.
Today, meet Jaehee Cho and Atit Kothari, the duo behind Injustice, a VR experience focused on police brutality.
Project Synopsis: Injustice is a three to five minute interactive virtual reality (VR) experience themed around racially motivated police brutality. In Injustice, guests witness an act of racial discrimination happening in front of them, forcing them to make moral and ethical decisions on the spot. The guest comes face to face with the characters of the story, filmed with live action, and interacts in the space with them directly using gaze interaction and voice recognition.
Injustice was created by Kalpana, a project team of graduate students from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center who aimed to explore interactive storytelling and build an effective pipeline for it. The issues of police brutality and racial discrimination are problems at the forefront of awareness and concern for America. Kalpana saw an opportunity to shed light on the situation experienced by a disproportionate amount of young African Americans in the country by leveraging the immersive power of VR, creating a level of empathy for the issue only possibly through personal experience.
CMSI: What inspired you to create this experience?
Over the summer of 2015 we were reading a lot about racially motivated police brutality on the news and social media platforms. One that stood out to us was the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. We as a team were deeply moved by the social injustice happening in America and wanted to use our skills to address the issue. We knew the capabilities of VR and wanted to leverage it to create an experience that is meaningful and not just entertaining, which led us to choose police brutality and racial profiling as our theme.
CMSI: Why did you choose VR to tell this story? What did you feel the medium offered you as a storyteller?
Virtual Reality world is a 360 degree world, where the user can look around wherever he wants as opposed to the traditional cinema where all the action will happen on a screen. There is some sense of freedom to choose where to look and when to look. Designing for the 360 space can be tricky but the pay-off is big!
VR enables us to be more creative with interactivity, as the case with “Injustice”. We are not limited to just selecting an option by point and click. We can have gaze, voice and other input methods which are more intuitive to us as humans.
VR is also a very personal and isolated experience compared to traditional cinema.
CMSI: What impact do you hope Injustice has on those who experience it?
We knew the capabilities of VR and wanted to leverage it to create an experience that is meaningful and not just entertaining, which led us to choose police brutality and racial profiling as our theme. We wanted people to get talking about the discrimination that is happening in America.
So far our audience responses has been great! For Instance, in “Injustice”, a police officer points a gun at user and almost every time user raise their hands, forgetting for a moment that they are in a fake world. Some of them even reach inside their pocket to search for their ID. There was one lady who broke down after we removed the headset. We’ve had long conversation about the subject (police brutality and racial discrimination) after people tried “Injustice”.
To see the Injustice trailer, click here.
To see the full Story Movements line-up, click here.
To register for Story Movements, click here.