Northernlands 2 - VR is awesome, especially now
Can VR resolve ages-old conflict? Can it unite people in neutral environments? Tim says yes and he has some compelling stories to share
This transcript comes from the captions associated with the video above. It is "as spoken".
I will take you back to 1914.
First World War was going on strong. It's December.
It's snowing, it's very, very cold
The Allied forces and their rivals are in their trenches
and they're fighting each other. And it's December.
And the phone rings; it's the General.
And the General says...
"Guys its time for Christmas truce. We're going on a short holiday"
"So do whatever you like. We're going home and you know, have fun."
You think that's crazy, right?
But this is a true story.
If you look it up, you can just find it on Wikipedia.
Search for Christmas truce 1914 and you will see what happens.
This is what happened.
The Allied forces and their rivaling companions. Basically they came
out of their trenches.
And they started partying. They started eating with each other
exchanging letters they got and they started some
games of footballing. You see the images online as well
of the people that would normally shooting at each
other. They came out of the trenches and starting, you
know, having fun together.
This story really struck me when I heard it a couple years ago.
And not much later I found myself filming a documentary
basically based on this idea.
The idea is:
What happens if you take people from out of the conflict and you
bring them together and they basically have no reference or
framework of the conflict? What would happen if you put
them together and they just simply chat about, you know the things
that they have on their minds, the things that they do with their
children, their hobbies, etc. So it was there in Uganda and we
were bringing together two rivaling soldiers; two rivaling
tribe leaders basically.
And what we did is - separate from each other - we made a sort of
family portrait in virtual reality, so we were there.
We had professional filming team and we interviewed each of
the warriors. And what we did is we show that to each other. So
they saw what the other person recorded for them.
And what happened? That was the most bizarre thing that I've
ever encountered. They saw that they were basically
similar and they really started showing empathy for each other.
And you can look at this documentary that we shot. It's a
20 minute documentary. You can look at it online. It's at meetthesoldier.com
And the result was a virtual reality documentary of
20 minutes that was sent all across the world on many film
festivals. People were able to
watch it. And the reason why I'm telling you this story about the
soldiers that came out of the trench in 1914, and a project
that I did in North Uganda is because what I saw is that many
times because of a certain distance between each other.
There is no place to create empathy
and understanding. And if you are able
for a second for a brief moment, to forget that distance,
you can start building a new friendship. You can start
building on new things And this is what we did
at a project in Uganda we basically reset the situation
for a brief moment where they realized "wow!" Basically we are
sort of like we are doing the same kinds of things
and that's you know technology made that possible for us to do it.
And again I invite you to look at the documentary you have online.
So now you might wonder "Who is this guy? Is he like a
filmmaker or a documentary maker or anything?", but not like that.
My name is is Tim. I'm from the Netherlands and I work
at Q42 which is a software agency. So basically we build
applications. We build websites, we build the things that you
probably use around your house. If you turn on your lights
automatically etc etc. So within Q42, some years ago I started
my own department called Hack The Planet. If you look at the news
you see all kinds of things, right. We having lots of
problems with many different kinds of things; with plastic,
with climate change etc etc. So many things that needs
improvement and my take on this is that technology can be a
great part in helping find solutions for these
kind of global challenge that we have. So for instance Hack The Planet
we are working also on a
conservation project where we use technology to combat poaching
So all sorts of different projects that we do.
So back to the project
that we did in Uganda: Meet The Soldier
So. What it resulted in is that these, rivaling tribal leaders
actually became friends after
viewing what they've seen; what they've created for each other.
So an independent interviewer went back several years later
and interviewed all the parties that are involved in creating
the documentary and now they're not rivaling again.
They're just. Basically they're asking for each other, which
shows a great deal of friendship
there. So obviously this was really energizing for me.
But this project was not on itself.
Uh, the reason why these kinds of things work is because
technology can create a bridge
Between people, especially in a distance situation.
And the reason for this is that
virtual reality is registered a little bit differently in the brain.
And if you look online there is many resources available.
For instance, in 2015 University of Nice and
University of Montreal both did a research within virtual
reality and the elderly, and they have some very cool
conclusions based on their research. Is that not only was
it very energizing for these
elderly people, but they got memories back from the past.
And another research of Stanford in 2017 was with the homeless project
The project is called "becoming homeless"
And this research showed that the group that
underwent a virtual reality experience was much more
likely to help out in the specific project that we're
doing. Than the other group that did not have the virtual reality
experience and for all the
people that have experienced
virtual reality themselves. They'll know that the technology
now has so much evolved during the last years. That is indeed
so immersive that indeed some people, when they go in like the
roller coaster simulator, they actually have some sort of fear,
and that's because your brain thinks "what's happening?". This
feels quiet, quiet real. And that's because all sorts of
triggers in your brain go off after a few minutes and they
actually take what they see for real.
So, for entertainment purposes, this is obviously very powerful
But my take on this is that we can also use this mechanic
basically for the better, right, and start looking
into initiatives that could really use this power and turn
it into something that creates empathy and understanding
between people. Especially now when we have so much social distance.
And we are already doing this.
A couple of years ago we started an experiment.
Basically it was a result of a hackathon
where we got the challenge from Municipality of The Hague
a city in Netherlands.
And they basically asked
all sorts of teams to come up with new solutions for the elderly
and especially loneliness amongst the elderly.
So that's a big, big, big challenge and a major topic.
So. The question we had is, is there anything that we can do
with technology and loneliness?
And if you think about it, loneliness is all about social
isolation many times. So the things that we are now
experiencing during the pandemic
Is something that elderly people experience for
years already, which is a sad thing, obviously.
So that got us that got us thinking alot.
And again we started experimenting with virtual reality.
But this time we combine several things.
We combine the experience with a form of entertainment
but probably not something you have in mind. It's really
a very quiet experience. You have to imagine that we recorded all
sorts of experiences like just being on the beach or just
going for a walk or being in the city centre. Or all the things
that young people nowadays can take for granted for doing.
Just a regular things that many times elderly people,
especially in care homes, are not able to do anymore.
So we took these experiences and we made that we made a virtual
reality experience out of it and we started testing.
We actually started testing at care homes and what happened?
That again, that really struck me because these elderly people
that were viewing that experience;
They came out with all sorts of new stories,
energized and so enthusiastic about what they had done,
as if we had taken them on the short holiday.
So for me and I have to be honest, I really did not believe
that it would be working out that way. I know I figured well
all the elderly people how are they going to use the
virtual reality goggles? And it might go wrong and it's new
technology etc. But all these things went pretty OK. Really good.
And as of today, so fast forward, many years later we
have this project rolled out into many care homes in the city
center of The Hague. We're looking out to expanding and to
have more people use this product, and especially now
during the pandemic. We have a
lot of VR goggles that we are deploying for free to
care. Homes and people really enthusiastic about it. Why?
Again, because they're taking basically on a short holiday
That's how they experience it - just a short moment to get out
for a while. Which obviously
doesn't replace social interaction with people
absolutely. So this is the most important thing, right?
Real interaction with people. But my take on this is the following.
Not always is social interaction possible and
not always it's something that
you want. Like for instance.
The example I gave you with the soldiers; rivaling soldiers in Uganda.
You cannot simply put them together and start talking, right?
There's just too much stuff happened for them to connect.
Sometimes you have to reset and then technology,
especially now with virtual reality, can be a very good way
to reset that situation and start building from a new
perspective. And also now we're in this pandemic where we are
forced in from social isolation. We are already using all sorts
of technology. Everyone now is using video calls etc etc. And
again technology can be a really good way to bridge that gap and
I would really love to see new ideas and new innovations where
we take another step and create added value.
So not only are we able to communicate and, that is,
you know that we are sort of like tolerating it
because it's you know it's the next best thing. But because
it's creating added value and the project that I showed you
Meet The Soldier and our project Elders VR I think are great
examples and this is why I always invite fellow creatives,
fellow engineers fellow people that are in the field of
engineering and creating ideas to start working towards these
ideas that can help us; technologies that
can help us do that and create
added value. Thank you.
Tim van Deursen
Technologist, Founder of Hack the Planet
Tim van Deursen is an engineer on a mission to make a positive contribution to the world. Tim wants to super charge high-tech efforts needed to solve big global challenges. He believes many such challenges we nowadays have can benefit from smart easy to deploy technology. Technology can and needs to be part of solving global challenges.
Nothernlands 2 is a collaboration between ODI Leeds and The Kingdom of the Netherlands, the start of activity to create, support, and amplify the cultural links between The Netherlands and the North of England. It is with their generous and vigourous support, and the support of other energetic organisations, that Northernlands can be delivered.