July 9, 2015

Adventist World Radio

Curiosity Goes 360 at Adventist World Radio

 Adventist Review/ann

The interplay of cutting edge technologies is fully on display in the exhibit hall at this year’s General Conference (GC) Session. Visitors to the Adventist World Radio (AWR) booth will be able to experience striking 360-degree videos about AWR radio stations and content producers, as well as footage of recipients of AWR programs in locations ranging from Myanmar and Guam to the Middle East.

The AWR 360 experience utilizes a Rift, a virtual reality headset developed by Oculus VR, a gaming firm that was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for US$2 billion. The Rift, which is currently available only to developers, features specialized software that allows users to feel like they’re in another location by tracking their head movements.

“What we’re trying to communicate is the impact of the stories,” says Shelley Freesland, communication director for AWR. “We’re letting people experience the whole cycle of AWR—from program production to transmission to the end users, the listeners.”

Producer and developer of AWR 360 Daryl Gungadoo believes that 360-degree video offers many advantages for storytelling.

“Trying to convey the emotion of a story is actually easier in 360 because people are completely immersed in the environment,” reports Gungadoo.

While there have been numerous 360-degree animated games and experiences created for Rift and similar devices, creating 360-degree video is still largely unexplored. This posed major challenges for AWR to capture the video for this experience. In order to get 360-degree footage, the AWR 360 team stitched together footage from seven GoPro cameras, which are on display at the AWR exhibit.

Gungadoo explains the difficulties of 360 recording. “It’s a whole new ball game because you can’t control the camera angles—you can’t even hide the cameraperson,” he says. “Instead of simply telling a story, this is really reinventing the way stories are told in that it gives the user the possibility of exploring. The only thing missing is smell!”

Gungadoo reports that while attempting to capture footage by attaching the seven GoPro cameras to a drone, two of the cameras were destroyed when the drone crashed. He was initially concerned because the GoPro cameras are expensive, but when he wrote to GoPro explaining that he was attempting to capture 360-degree footage from a drone, they replaced his cameras for free.

Readers not attending the GC Session in San Antonio can also experience AWR 360 via their Internet browser or smartphone. By visiting 360.awr.org, anyone can read the instructions to access the same 360-degree video content being shown at the San Antonio convention center, from anywhere in the world.

Gungadoo believes that the 360-degree video virtual reality technology on display at the AWR exhibit has great potential for Adventist ministry. He believes that interactive learning through virtual reality can be an extremely effective method of learning.

“I’m a strong believer in the concept of curiosity education,” say Gungadoo. “Instead of being forced to learn something, if I am made to be curious about something and given the opportunity to explore, it is much easier for my learning experience than if I just look at something.”

Adventist World Radio broadcasts the Adventist message in 101 languages to people all over the world, bypassing barriers of government restrictions, cultural opposition, and geography to reach people in countries where missionaries cannot travel.