UN Brings Virtual Reality Glasses to Campus

This week, the United Nations has brought virtual reality glasses to campus featuring videos about stories like surviving Ebola or living in the Gaza Strip. This is one student's experience with the glasses.

By Lisa Kocay '16

I stood on the golden sand listening to the sound of the waves emanating from the deep blue ocean. I turned to my right and saw an unfamiliar face – the face of Decontee Davis, an Ebola survivor from Liberia. 

When I placed the cumbersome eyepiece over my eyes and the headphones over my ears, I lost all sense of being in the Global Union.

The United Nations provided the Global Union with virtual reality glasses for a second time, and students were invited to come watch seven to eight minute long videos through the virtual reality headset. From the list of movie choices I was given, I decided to watch Waves of Grace, Nepal and Toms: Virtual Giving Trip.

Waves of Grace was the story of Davis and her journey as an Ebola survivor. She discussed what it felt like to be diagnosed with the deadly disease, how her country was affected by the outbreak and her role in the aftermath.

The virtual reality experience is encompassing – it is a 360-degree view of the movie you are watching. In each movie I watched, I felt as though I was a part of the story. I almost gasped while watching Waves of Grace when I found myself in a hospital room with a sick child lying in a bed to the left of where I was standing. Just a few scenes later, I was overcome with grief at the sight of men wearing white biohazard suits burying one of the too many of the people who succumbed to the virus.

My emotional experience watching Nepal was similar to Waves of Grace. Once the movie began, I found myself in a pile of rubble. The walls all around me were in shambles and when I looked at my feet, all I saw was the remains of what used to be a building. I learned about how the money raised to help the country recover from the devastating earthquake wasn’t used and I saw what it was like for the survivors. I witnessed children live in makeshift tents because their houses were destroyed, and I watched people pass bricks down an assembly line in hopes of rebuilding their lives. I had seen photos of the destruction but being immersed in the virtual reality video gave me a better understanding for what had occurred.

To end my experience with the virtual reality glasses, I watched Toms: Virtual Giving Trip. This video was the story of the impact Toms shoes are making around the world. Blake Mycoskie, the creator of the shoes, started the company after visiting Argentina and seeing how few children owned shoes. Whenever a pair of Toms shoes are purchased, a pair is given to a child who needs them.

This video took me through Peru, where shoes were being given to children. I watched children get fitted for shoes and saw the smiles on their faces as they danced around in their new shoes. I became so involved with the video, I almost responded when a child waved as me and said, “Hola!”

The movies I watched through the virtual reality glasses provided me with a more impactful experience than watching a regular movie, looking at pictures or reading about the stories the movies told. I felt as though I was being given a first-hand account of the events taking place and the movies each elicited an emotional response from me.

My experience may have been virtual, but it almost felt real.