Virtual reality (VR) twinned with 360° cameras will be the most significant trend in 2017 in media and education, offering us a whole new way of seeing. These developments are particularly meaningful for me, as a photojournalist and a former refugee from Syria.
Nowadays, many people boast high-powered cameras on their smart devices. But how about a camera that can let you capture everything around you with one click? In fact, 360° cameras—formerly just used for expensive and complicated initiatives like Google’s Street View—are getting more and more popular because they are easy to use and incredibly powerful at the same time.
Activists and artists are jumping at the ability to save as many distinct frames as a traditional photographer, while also being able to immerse the viewer in the scene via a VR headset. And for the more snap-happy, who like to save their memories or post them on social media, 360° cameras will let them freeze and remember everything around them at any one moment in space and time.
As with the advent of digital cameras, switching to 360° cameras will be challenging for many professional photographers. The hefty price tag, at least to begin with, will deter many amateurs. Few tech companies offer products that can store the type of file produced by 360° cameras, and most will need professional instruction to get the best out of the 360° view.
But imagine how these kinds of photos and videos might change the world we are living in. For instance, I hope to return to the camp where I used to live to shoot a VR film. I want to work with refugees to show the world what living in a camp looks like, from all angles. In the process, we might discover less obvious but very important needs that call for investment: not just food, water and shelter, but also education and training. This unfiltered view, direct from refugees themselves, could inspire people elsewhere to take a greater interest in their plight, especially if we are able to screen the project at the United Nations in New York.
I strongly believe that these new media technologies will inspire artists and journalists as well. I have started my own project teaching photography to those, especially refugees, who do not have access to education. My aim is to give them a tool that can fill their empty calendars with the hope of a better life.
Virtual reality and 360° cameras have the potential to give a world saturated with images of suffering and violence a stronger sense of what we are seeing. Maybe, then, we will talk about new technologies and the global problems they reveal in the same breath. Thanks to 360° cameras, we may be hearing about the refugee crisis 365 times a year.