Immersive technologies – specifically VR – have the ability to surround us in new scenarios and explore vividly the lives of others. Recent years have seen innovators experiment with VR to encourage empathy, compassion and understanding.
The Guardian’s latest foray into VR enables viewers to experience the first year of life as a human. Research on neural development and vision went into an experience that allows people to revisit a stage of life that is unremembered, but crucial to the development of all people.
Using Daydream View, Google’s platform for high-quality, mobile VR, First Impressions starts with the viewer only being able to see muted colours. Then, hues of red and green, and then yellow and blue begin to form. A voiceover by Charles Nelson, professor of paediatrics at Harvard, guides viewers through the experience, explaining how the development of behaviour and social functioning can be impaired if babies are not given responsive care and social interaction. Crucially, the viewer is shown what it is like to be an infant, rather than told, rendering the experience much more vivid and affecting.