The immersion of virtual reality experiences can be harnessed to educate, terrify, inspire, or entertain. Some experiences eschew the entertainment aspect, instead shooting for something impactful that may even change your real life routine once you step out of the virtual space. iAnimal is one such experience that gives an immersive look into farms and factories with the goal of eliminating cruel conditions for animals.
At their SXSW booth, passersby are given the choice of chicken or pig for their virtual experience. I chose the pig and was transported into a claustrophobic pen with a fellow pig the next pen over trying to interact. After that, you’re taken through a handful of scenes that make it tougher and tougher to sit through the roughly 5-minute video as you witness mother pigs rendered motionless to be fed on, a grown pig shaking itself loose after having its neck cut open, and a couple pigs being euthanized via electrocution. The hosts were there to inform and comfort those that watched iAnimal, hoping that they’d leave an impression on at least some of those that stopped at their booth.
It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out what path an animal takes before it gets to your plate, but iAnimal was still an eye opener. Pictures of such conditions are heartbreaking but don’t show the situation in the same way this immersive experience set out to do. You’re isolated beneath the VR headset and headphones, basically watching from the perspective of an animal as the typical day-to-day horrors transpire in these environments. When you look around the 360-degree video you’ll often catch other gruesome activities taking place. The team behind the project has already reached over 22,000 people with the iAnimal experience ,and it joins a long list of VR experiences attempting to leave such a deep impression that people seek change afterward.