Filmmakers are using virtual reality to make the problems of the developing world seem more ... real.
But how can you see their work?
You could buy a headset, but you might end up in virtual debt. Prices range from $200 to $500 for devices from big players like Oculus Rift, Sony and Samsung. And forking over that much cash is a problem since there's not a lot of content yet.
"You're in a store ... and here's all the head-mounted displays and then it costs $200 or $300. Why would you ever buy it when you don't know why you're buying it? You wouldn't," Tony Christopher, CEO of Landmark Entertainment Group, told NPR last month.
But there are inexpensive options that require only your smartphone and some cardboard. Google Cardboard, a project of the tech giant, offers instructions and templates to build your own cardboard virtual reality headset. Grab a pair of scissors, X-Acto knife and some glue. Then find some cardboard at home, print out the templates, trace and cut out the different pieces and assemble your goggles.
The instructions can get confusing, so our multimedia editor Ben de la Cruz suggests following a how-to video like this one from the tech site, CNET.
Or you can build a viewer from a prepackaged toolkit, which has all the pieces cut out and organized. You can order those for roughly $30 at Dodocase, which has plenty of options — including one that boasts a mere 30-second assembly time. "Simply tear off the packaging, swing the faceplate down, swing the nose piece down and you are ready to go," reads the product description. (Readers, let us know if that's true!)
Once you've made all the cuts and folds, just stick your smartphone in the designated slot, and voila! A makeshift virtual reality headset.
But what will you watch? There's a small handful of free virtual reality apps for your smartphone, including Google's official virtual reality app that lets you take a worldwide journey and a horror game called Sisters. Among the most popular is Vrse, which is filled with virtual reality videos. YouTube also has a few offerings.
More content is coming as journalists, activists, corporations and even those in the health field find uses for virtual reality. Nike is among the latest to jump in, using a virtual reality video of Brazilian soccer star Neymar to promote its cleats.
So sooner or later, you may find yourself the proud owner of a VR headset. And if there's any indication that virtual reality is here to stay, it's Facebook's $2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift, which was originally funded through Kickstarter. The social media giant hopes to take virtual reality beyond immersive gaming and bring it into our social lives.