Virtual reality technology changes a lot in many areas of human activity despite the skepticism of many. However, while certain areas benefit from it, the others may suffer. Among the last ones charity can apper. Jonathan Simmons of Zone, a firm which works in non-commercial sector, believes that technologies like Oculus Rift can influence charities very badly.
“Technology has had a big impact on charities in two ways. One is around things like transparency and geographical boundaries. Traditionally a lot of charities would say things like ‘give us your clothes, we’ll stick them on a boat and transfer them to somewhere they’re needed,” he says.
“The other great impact of technology is the practical access it has given, in an area like diabetes for example. The charity sector here has tended to do one of three things – contribute to research, contribute to support services or campaign to government so that diabetics are better treated. In a world where I can wear a device and where I can measure everything around the disease – what is the role of a diabetes charity? So we live in a world of greatly changed expectations,” continues Simmons. “It does undoubtedly challenge charities’ whole raison d’etre.”
Moreover, with adoption of Oculus Rift and similar projects, the trend will be only getting stronger. Although, Simmons does acknowledge a positive aspect in Oculus Rift contribution: “With wearable technology, when you see a homeless person on the street for example, you’ll be able to give money directly to the shelter. Another thing will be the ability to overlay visual information. So for example, when fundraising for a new cancer centre, it will be possible to overlay that with real time information in order to see how much progress is being made and how much money is needed to build it.”
The capability of Oculus Rift to provide immersive experience can become an effective instrument in visualizing charity objects, like remote African villages which need help, so that people can see for themselves that their help is indeed vitally necessary. In other words, it is another possibility to attract public’s attention to charities. “I think it will happen, and emotion does drive activity in this field, but I’m not sure how well it will work. I don’t think it’s hard to recreate an impactful experience. How hard is it to find a homeless person? I think it will be far more interesting to use something like Oculus Rift as an educational device and in a targeted way.
“It will be the increasing ability to connect people to a direct ask that will be significant. We’ve already had quite a bit of technological innovation, through SMS giving for example. But it’s important to note that none of these technologies have actually increased the amount of giving from the UK. It has reduced the cost of giving, but we don’t actually give any more than we did 10 years ago,” believes Simmons.
CAF Donate is an online service which allows you to donate directly via your phone or PC. Chris Allwood, who works there, confirms:
“People donate to charity because they are inspired to do so. Technology can both share that inspiration and make the act of donating easier. Much of the new fundraising tech focuses on making it easier to act. These days you have to make the technology work where people are. When we developed our CAF Donate system we felt it was vital to make it very easy for charities to use, but also extremely easy for donors to access through mobile devices as well as desktops. As devices become more portable and wearable that will be even more important. The exciting thing about Google Glass and Oculus Rift is their potential, through creating vivid, visceral experiences, to inspire people to give in the first place.”