We look the exciting ways charities are using virtual reality and simulations to help deliver services, support beneficiaries, and dazzle audiences
Charities are becoming increasingly innovative in their use of digital to improve support for beneficiaries. This is particularly the case with the use of virtual reality and gamification technology.
Charities are using such technology to create simulations to tackle child abuse, train frontline support workers, and give children and families an engaging tour of their physical services.
Here we showcase some of the most innovative recent uses of this emerging technology to support charities’ mission and communities.
The NSPCC has been pioneering the use of a computer simulation programme to help tackle child abuse.
The simulation is an effective way for the charity to broach the difficult issues impacting some of their most vulnerable beneficiaries. It also gives those involved a more realistic look at the challenges covered by the charity.
The children’s charity teamed up with gamification training provider Attensi to create an immersive simulation for those working with children who may be victims of abuse. Talk To Me is a free-to-use online simulation that aims to build confidence in adults working with children to talk about challenging issues, such as abuse.
It can be accessed through web browsers and involves fictional young characters who have been created using advanced 3D modelling that recreates body language and facial expressions. Real actors have voiced the characters who are involved in scenarios that users are guided through.
In addition, real-time feedback is presented to users depending on how well they have earned children’s trust.
“For anyone who comes into contact with young people who they fear may have suffered abuse or be at risk, learning how to build their trust is absolutely vital,” said NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless.
“As part of our wider activity aimed at supporting those who work or volunteer with children, we’re delighted to offer our safeguarding research and experience to collaborate with Attensi on Talk to Me.”
Charities are also using 360 degree video to give beneficiaries a more realistic insight into services. For sick children, the prospect of staying in a hospital or hospice can be daunting and full of misconceptions of an austere environment.
Acorns Children’s Hospice use a 360 degree virtual reality tour of its facilities to ease children’s minds. The hospice says that things children will notice on their virtual reality tour is “how homely our hospices are. It’s important that we provide children with a comfortable home-from-home when they come to visit”.
The virtual tour of Acorns’ hospices using a virtual reality headset involves a look in the bedrooms children will stay in, the medical equipment used, as well as its gardens and hydrotherapy pool.
Great Ormond Street Hospital is also offering a 360 degree tour of wards to put young patients at ease before they stay. Its tour takes children through the hospital’s facilities and surgical theatres, as well as its play and sensory rooms.
Social enterprise Cornerstone uses virtual to focus on real life situations for its training involving frontline professionals in the care sector. This immersive experience helps those taking part to experience the challenging and potentially harrowing experiences that vulnerable beneficiaries can face.
According to Cornerstone: “Virtual reality accelerates behaviour change – improving the relationships between carers/parents and children.”
Cornerstone uses virtual reality to offer trauma awareness training to education and mental health workers to help them better understand issues such as challenging behaviour and the impact on young people of adverse childhood experiences.
It also offers virtual reality enhanced therapy rooms. These help people to relax away from their smart phones and receive support from carers and clinical specialists.
The arts and heritage charity sector has also been using virtual reality to give an increasingly digitally-savvy audience the chance to see performers live.
One of the most ambitious projects has been a live orchestra through the charity Philharmonia, using immersive installations and screens.
Aside from the current lockdown and social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, the virtual orchestra tours across the UK and has so far reached more than 40,000 people.
The project is aimed at reducing barriers to accessing the experience of a live orchestra and to diversify classical music’s audience.
“The legacy of the project continues to develop in our ever-growing range of projects working with local communities, more diverse audiences for our residency concerts, and new partnerships,” said Philharmonia.