Surveys show that 99% of people in the UK have heard of autism but only 16% understand it in a meaningful way. In order to address this issue the National Autistic Society has launched a series of VR events in UK’s venues starting on 9th July.
The project comes as a continuation to the viral hit “Can you make it to the end?” which gained over 54 million views and over 850k shares in one month. The virtual reality version takes people inside the original film, projecting an autistic boy’s trip to a shopping centre, allowing people to experience a sensory overload.
The activity is part of the Too Much Information campaign, which aims to raise awareness of autism and to evoke empathy amongst the general public. Using Samsung Gear VR, the immersive film will tour 15 intu shopping centres and other venues around the UK.
Mark Lever the CEO of the National Autistic Society says the VR experience really helps to understand autism further. He goes on to say “the public want to be empathetic to autistic people, but often they just don’t understand the condition and may mistake an autistic person melting down in public for being naughty and deliberately disruptive. To help the public understand a little more about autism, we’re really excited to be the first charity using virtual reality to demonstrate what this aspect of autism can feel, see, and sound like.”
NAS is also putting together a pack for schools to teach their students about autism using the cardboard versions of the VR headsets and targeting politicians at the Conservative Party Conference in October.
This is Don’t Panic’s first experience of creating a virtual reality campaign. The process of creating a VR film has a whole different set of rules; it’s about creating a place for people to visit and a person for them to become, rather than simply telling a story. This interactivity of virtual reality gives it a unique sense of “presence” – it has the power to take us somewhere else in time and space, to help us feel, just for a while, what it’s like to be someone else – which is why it was the perfect tool to communicate exactly what a sensory overload feels like for someone with autism for NAS.
The virtual reality film is available through Autism TMI Virtual Reality Experience app, which can be downloaded from the iTunes or Play Store. It is highly recommended to watch with headphones in and one of the cardboard headsets. TMI Google Cardboards are purchasable from the National Autistic Society site.