HTC Puts $10 Million On The Table To Inspire VR Developers To Better The World

HTC announced it has another $10 million in developer funding up for grabs. The company is willing to fund the creation of experiences that “promote social change” towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals meant to eradicate poverty around the world, establish peace, provide prosperity, and protect our planet’s ecosystem and wildlife.

HTC’s latest virtual reality (VR) development funding project is called VR for Impact, and it revolves around the idea that VR is a powerful medium to help promote empathy for others. VR allows you to experience things from another person’s perspective, and the theory holds that taking in someone else’s experience as your own broadens your perspective of the subject in question.

The idea that VR can foster empathy for others isn’t new, and in fact, there is data to back up the idea. Documentary filmmaker Chris Milk talked about his experience creating and demonstrating his short 360-degree film, The Displaced, during a TED Talk presentation in 2015. The Displaced documents the lives of three children and their struggle for life in war-torn Syria, Ukraine, and South Sudan. The struggle these children face elicits a powerful emotional response from many who watch the film, which led Milk to dub VR “the ultimate empathy machine.”

“The potential for Virtual Reality to help us learn, understand, and transform the world is limitless. VR for Impact is a challenge to the VR community and content developers across the globe to help drive awareness and to solve the biggest challenges of mankind,” said Cher Wang, Chairwoman and CEO, HTC. “HTC Vive will fund the best ideas using Virtual Reality that truly drive awareness and positive change in our world. We encourage all players in the VR eco-system to join as only together can we drive real impact.”

With the VR for Impact fund, HTC hopes to inspire more creators to make VR experiences and films that touch on important social topics that align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals imitative. The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of targets that members of the UN committed to seeing through over the next decade and a half. The organization laid out guidelines to expand education, improve health care, and end hunger, along with a variety of other social-economic problems that have a broad impact on the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

“HTC is a pioneer in recognizing the work the UN has done to promote social change through virtual reality,” said Gabo Arora, Creator of the UN’s VR Initiative and Creative Advisor to the World Food Programme. “The Vive’s room-scale VR capability can be a powerful tool for immersive storytelling, education, and training; their support will empower more people to effect global change, give voices to the most vulnerable and provide access to new possibilities for the most marginalized.”

If the VR for Impact initiative sounds familiar, you may be recalling the VR for Good initiative that Oculus launched in May. Oculus established the VR for Good project to inspire filmmakers and students to showcase important causes using VR as a delivery medium. Oculus doesn’t provide cash funding through VR for Good, though; it offers resources and training to creators.  HTC’s initiative puts cash in the hands of developers to use as they see fit.

HTC is currently accepting funding applications through the VR for Impact initiative. The company said it will reveal the first “winning projects” on Earth Day – April 22, 2017. HTC didn’t say how many projects it plans to support in the first round, and it did not disclose the amount it would provide per project.

If you have a project idea you wish to pitch for potential funding, you can sign up on the VR for Impact website.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years. 

  • WFang
    Experiencing racism and bullying in VR could be one part in a more multi-faceted program to prevent such things.

    Also, in a less emotionally charged way, I for one would be very curious about a VR like 360-video with overlays that take me into a mosque and let me 'participate' in a prayer sermon and various religious rituals, with text overlays that explain the various things that are happening. Something like this for all major religions would be pretty cool to open-minded and curious people, or even as a tool to make the 'scary unfamiliar' be less scary and more familiar! :)
  • nodeffect
    better the world by making VR porn more realistic... f*** logic
  • bit_user
    VR's ability to foster greater empathy than other media will make it a powerful propaganda tool. I'm surprised we haven't been hearing more about this. It's a flip side of the same coin they're touting.

    If you think youtube is a powerful recruiting tool for political movements & extremist groups, you ain't seen nothin', yet.

    Just consider how many protests and movements, around the world, have been fueled by social media, in recent years. Now, think about what effect it would have to experience attacks, offenses, and injustices as if you were there. Not only that, but VR video can & will certainly be edited to serve the interests of someone, or maybe just trolls and anarchists.

    I'm starting to think that social media might just fan the flames of the next world war. And, as if it weren't already dangerous enough, VR could be a potent accelerant.
  • gaaah
    I predict the main effect of VR will be masses of people will just be able to drop out of the real and pretend in the unreal, much like you can now with MMPORPGs, but likely with much more addictive pull. HTC is doing this to assuauge their own guilt and preempt any accusers. I predict VR will be a productivity back hole.