As delegations representing the Syrian government and opposition groups meet in Geneva for a new round of peace talks, Russia pulling out the bulk of its military in the country, and the partial cease-fire that started last month is reportedly offering signs of hope, the reality on the ground for many Syrians is still dire.
Obviously the conflict and the refugees it has displaced haven’t been far from the front pages for a while. Sadly, it’s all been going on so long that many of us in the safe and sound portion of Earth may have started to forget about it, glaze over those headlines, or have a bit of cause fatigue. To help jar us out of potential complacency, Amnesty International has launched “Fear of the Sky,” a 360-degree sensory overload of the situation facing many in Syria right now. Working closely with a group of Syrian media activists from Aleppo called Lamba Media Production, the film was created by San Francisco-based agency Junior, and gives us a glimpse at the aftermath of barrel bombings and other attacks, in places like a schoolyard in the residential neighborhood of Ansari Sharqi, and a vegetable market in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr district. There’s also images of unarmed civilians being rescued by Syrian Civil Defense teams.
Junior co-founder Robbie Whiting says the challenge was to create a web-based, VR-first experience with different types of rich media content across multiple platforms with a library—Mozilla’s A-Frame—that wasn’t even available to the public when they began development.
“Most VR experiences are single purpose, often using expensive hardware, and the biggest challenges we faced were in designing the new paradigm for user interface, which means integrating rich media content across different devices in a way that both early adopters and the general public will be able to experience — even without VR headsets,” says Whiting.
The film is a follow-up to a campaign launched last year when Amnesty incorporated virtual reality viewers into its street fundraising operations in London, Manchester, Bristol, and Leeds, allowing people to see scenes of destruction in Aleppo. The organization says that as a result, its fundraisers got a strong and often emotional response from the public, as well as a significant increase in people signing up to direct debit donations toward its human rights work.