Virtual reality is making an impact on a variety of industries. One such industry is journalism. Nonny de la Peña is currently called 'The Godmother of Virtual Reality' due to her revolutionary take on incorporating virtual reality into journalistic storytelling. Her first project, Hunger in Los Angeles, coined her this name. This film takes a real life event from the viewpoint of a woman working a food bank line whom is overwhelmed at the number of people in line to be fed. During the process of this sound clip, a man collapses in a diabetic coma, his blood sugar dangerously low from having to wait so long for food. Hunger in Los Angeles was premiered at Sundance in 2012 to great acclaim. De la Peña states this medium and style of VR journalism caused "so many folks [to come out] of the experience crying, or otherwise deeply disturbed, I began to realize that part of good journalism, of being a civic partner to my audience, is to offer them ways to act. I don’t consider this activism but rather an appropriate interaction."
Commissioned by the World Economic Forum, de la Peña recently created Project Syria, a virtual reality documentary highlighting the difficult life displaced Syrians. Over 50% of these displaced Syrians are children. Utilizing real-life sound, photos and imaging, de la Peña's team has recreated the scenes in a virtual reality setting with the intention of reporting the horrific stories these children face and immersing viewers into the scenes. One of the most graphic scenes depicts a young Syrian girl singing (pictured above), which is then interrupted by a rocket, exploding less than 20 feet away from the girl.
Nonny de la Peña is changing the landscape of journalism by immersing audiences in a world so powerful, many leave overwhelmed by tears or emotions. This type of 'empathy machine' has the opportunity to truly transform the way we see international journalism and storytelling; hopefully to the end of affect of creating lasting changes.