The ever-expanding range of immersive tools is slowly transforming multiple industries, from retail and entertainment to healthcare. Augmented reality, which enhances the real world through computer-generated images, is changing film, gaming, as well as social media. The current applications of AR barely scratch the surface of its potential. In the future, AR and other immersive technologies could also play their role in overcoming environmental and social issues.
In the hope of inspiring humanitarian action around the world, the United Nations uses AR to illustrate their efforts.
How the UN Is Improving Humanitarian Aid
During the 2018 World Economic Forum, the UN first announced its intent to delve into augmented reality. They developed an AR exhibit, the first of its kind, to illustrate how they are improving their humanitarian response. The project was made for the World Food Programme, one of the UN’s many branches.
At the 73rd UN General Assembly, the WFP showcased a large interactive exhibit called “Future on a plate”. One of their exhibits featured AR. Viewers went on a journey to three different countries: South Sudan, Jordan, and Bangladesh. Through the AR platforms, viewers could see the harsh reality that beneficiaries face every single day of their lives. They also got to explore the ways in which the WFP is using technology to solve pressing issues.
AR has enabled the UN to tell the stories of people around the world. Not only that, but it also closes cross-cultural gaps, allowing different people to start a dialogue.
UN’s Interactive Exhibit
Each country had about two minutes of video footage. UN visitors could access the immersive exhibit by holding a tablet over a designated area with QR codes. After scanning, the augmented reality exhibit would activate, introducing 3D images and audio. Aside from presenting each country’s geopolitical problems, the exhibit highlighted the ridiculous cost of food. A chart would pop up, revealing the costs of everyday items, including a home-cooked meal. In South Sudan, the cost of a decent meal is equivalent to a $348.36 meal in New York.
From there, the exhibit brought viewers before real-life beneficiaries, who shared how technology has somehow improved their respective circumstances.
Millennium Art and Katapult Communications made all of this possible. Their organization is best known for its dynamic exhibits, which highlight the most pressing issues around the world. They’ve worked with the UN before, assisting them on large-scale projects. Katapult Communications, meanwhile, specializes in interactive storytelling.
As mentioned, the AR exhibit was a small part of a larger initiative. Aside from AR, the UN also utilized virtual reality and other audio-visual tools.
The interactive exhibit is considered a prototype, which they should continue to refine in the coming years. More importantly, the UN is quite confident that augmented reality will become a powerful tool in improving humanitarian aid.