The sizzling summer days did not stop World VR Forum from bedazzling WSIS Forum 2017  (World Summit on Information Society) – the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICTs for Development’ community with the latest revolutionary VR experiences, demonstrations and workshops for the second time at ITU (International Telecommunication Union) in Geneva, Switzerland, 12-16 June, 2017.

The event was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD. Virtual Reality fit perfectly within the WSIS programme causing much hype among the attendees as the Forum explored the latest technological boom of the early 21st century and its application to global initiatives for a more effective Information Society to stimulate interactions between developing and developed countries through an exhibition, panels, workshops and TED Talks.

During all five days of the Forum, VR projects were showcased at the WSIS exhibition space – a multi-stakeholder event which gathers more than 20 exhibitors from civil society, academia, international organizations, private sector, and government. Fifteen different countries were represented at the exhibition.

VR exhibitors included:  IAO VR (Immersive Architecture Ontology) with Brigitte Hunkeler and Rémy Fioretti displaying Urban Planning; Tilt Brush from OculusThe Blu; and EMBLEMATIC with FRONTLINE from USA with Cassandra Herrman & Lauren Mucciolo, displaying After Solitary (the sensational VR documentary on solitary confinement which was bestowed with the Imperial Crown award at WVRF’s Annual Summit’s Award Ceremony); and, of course, WVRF with nine progressive VR films.

WVRF’s VR Café

The most popular films with the ITU crowd were: Life in the Time of Refuge by David Gough from Nokia, UNHCR, UK; Out of the Blue by Sophie Ansel in collaboration with VR For Good by Oculus, France; Happy Land by Vitaly Nechaev from VostokVR, Singapore; My Brother’s Keeper by Alex Meader and Connor Hair from StoryTech Immersive and Perception Squared, USA; La Tentation de Saint Antoine by Carlos Franklin from ARTE et Les Poissons Volants, France; and Nairobi Berries by Ng’endo Mukii from Electric South, Kenya.

Other films at WVRF’s booth included: Fortress Europe by Neill Bell from Impact Unified, Sweden; Lost Memories by Stefania Cassini, Italy; and Notes to my Father by Jayisha Patel from VR For Good, USA.

The WVRF’s VR booth gathered more than 50 participants each day, many of which were high officials from international organizations. VR also left its audacious mark at WSIS with workshops and demonstrations which took place in the Popov Room, at the ITU Tower throughout the week.

WVRF’s Thematic Workshop and VR Demonstration

Salar Shahna, WVRF’s CEO spoke at the Targeting SDG Goal 9: Identifying Development Gaps to Infrastructure Placement and Search for Opportunities thematic workshop on Monday evening. Shahna explained how VR is reinventing social media, advertising, tourism, education and science, and showed short video clips of the latest progress in VR across those fields with: Birdly, Google VR, HoloLens, Magic Leaf, Meta, Lecture VR, The Enemy, and The Machine to be Another.

On the next day, Clayton Doherty, WVRF’s President ran a special session called Experience a Live Demonstration on Virtual Reality for Development for a class of middle school students from Le Régent Crans-Montana College on TeachVR which allows to travel the world virtually with the help of the Google Maps VR application. Each student was given a cardboard VR headset which immersed them into locations such as Mount Everest, an inside of a space shuttle, the Colosseum and the Great Wall of China. The demonstration was concluded nicely by Hunkeler who is an Architect at IAO VR who showed a detailed virtual building (only existent in VR) for the audience on the big screen.

According to Doherty, who comes from a theatre background, “VR goes by the last step of an ancient Chinese proverb: tell me – I’ll forget, show me – I’ll remember, involve me – I’ll understand, and though it will never replace books, it takes storytelling to the next level, as it is a great tool for students and teachers alike, driving humanity further into the future.”