Ahead of Earth Day, HTC Vive VR ‘impact’ grants will immerse viewers in space, trees and honeybees


HTC Vive, industry leader in virtual reality hardware and software from HTC Corp. and Valve Corp., today announced the first grant recipients of the VR for Impact program. The vision of the VR for Impact program is to deliver $10 million to help drive VR technologies and content to use virtual reality to create a positive impact in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Just in time for Earth Day, an environmental awareness day fast on April 22, the projects announced by HTC Vive as grant recipients include SpaceVR, the first virtual reality satellite launching into space later this year; Tree, a creatively immersive perspective on deforestation; and The Extraordinary Honey Bee, a joint project to raise awareness about dwindling bee populations.

All projects that receive funding by VR for Impact will be available on Viveport, HTC’s app store for VR. “We believe virtual reality and the immersive experiences it delivers have the potential to positively impact the biggest challenges that mankind faces,” said Rikard Steiber, president of Viveport at HTC Vive.

SpaceVR represents the world’s first reality platform that will make use of its very own satellite equipped with 360-degree video cameras designed specifically to capture VR content from space. The project’s vision is to bring the experience of space first hand through the immersion of VR to earthbound audiences.

Founded in 2015, the SpaceVR team built their first satellite, Overview 1, which has a planned launch aboard the SpaceX CRS-12 mission later this year. Once in orbit, the satellite will stream video capable of being rendered in 360-video or VR. Further information this project is available on SpaceVR’s website.

“By launching the first virtual reality satellite, we want to create the most vivid and visceral reminder yet that despite our individual trials and travails, we all live on this same fragile pale blue dot hurtling through space,” said SpaceVR Chief Executive Officer Ryan Holmes.

The VR experience Tree, published by New Reality Co., uses the VR experience and haptic feedback to immerse viewers in the experience of what happens to a tree in the rainforest when it is cut down. The objective of Tree’s immersive experience is to bring to light the harrowing realities of deforestation. Tree is an official selection of Sundance Film Festival New Frontier and Tribeca Film Festival Immersive 2017.

“New Reality shares with VR for Impact a core tenet: that VR storytelling is key to raising awareness for the many challenges facing our earth,” said Milica Zec, co-director on Tree and co-founder of New Reality.

The final recipient of the VR for Impact grant is The Extraordinary Honey Bee, a joint project with Häagen-Dazs, Reach Agency and SPECTACLE, which highlights the dramatic rate at which bee populations are falling. In Honey Bee, users will be reduced to the size of a bee for a guided VR experience in order to teach viewers about the risks bee colonies face and solutions currently being implemented to offset their decline.

Each of these three projects receiving grants from HTC’s VR for Impact project are designed to take advantage of the unique capability that virtual reality promises: the ability to take audience members out of their living rooms and immerse them in another place.

While the VR industry grows in its capability for providing entertainment, with movies and video games, the emotional impact of the VR experience cannot be denied. By fully engaging a user’s vision and auditory experience, VR can evoke powerful emotional responses and thus is a powerful tool for education.

The VR for Impact program is a multiyear project and will continue to offer grants to projects that promote the UN goals to improve awareness and education and lead to action about worldwide issues.

Image: HTC Vive