Have you ever wondered what it was like to be in a wheelchair? Better yet, have you ever wondered what it was like to be an athlete in a wheelchair? A company called VRability has already begun producing virtual reality videos in 360-degree views from disabled people's perspectives in various activities like sporting events to help us understand what it is like and what is possible despite their disability.
Russian filmmaker Stanislav Kolesnik had an unfortunate injury about one year ago and had to use a wheelchair. Frustrated and not wanting to give up his active lifestyle, Kolesnik stumbled upon athletics for disabled persons and quickly immersed himself in the community. He decided to make a project based on his experience on the wheelchair and help people realize what is possible despite their disability.
Georgy Molodtsov, the project's director, explained that they've decided to start something that is not only beneficial for disabled people, but could also offer an opportunity for everybody to experience a different world. According to Georgy, the only way to begin to understand it is to be in the shoes of a disabled person. VRability is indeed a pioneer in this type of VR project which gives people the chance to look at the world through a whole different dimension.
Molodtsov and Kolesnik had already a wealth of experience and decided that an immersive 360-degree virtual reality video is a great way to let people in on the experience.
GoPro cameras are used the world over to record videos of people’s point of view. Usually, the tiny cameras are mounted on the helmet so that people watching GoPro videos can see what the person is seeing and experience what the person is experiencing. The newly assembled VRability Team needed something to make the experience more immersive, so they made a custom helmet mount with the use of a 3D printer that can hold several GoPro cameras, in this case, about five to seven. The footage can then be edited to make the 360-degree virtual reality video. This is something that has never been tried before.
The resulting footage can be watched through a computer screen or with the use of a Virtual Reality headset, which is actually a more immersive experience that helps viewers to get the "feel" of what it's like to be playing sports as a disabled person.
A Russian charity for people with disabilities called Perspektiva helped in acquiring several volunteers to be participate in the project. For some participants, it's not just the use of the specialized GoPro gear that's new, but the experience of trying out activities like hang-gliding. I think it's safe to say that the we're all probably feel the same way about it: totally excited and perhaps a little bit freaked out, in a good way.
Redefining boundaries and experiences
Watching GoPro videos is a unique experience in itself. Being able to view the world from somebody in a wheelchair is a true eye-opening experience. One can't help but be in awe and develop even more respect for these brave and determined individuals who do amazing feats that most of us can only dream of.
But this unique experience is not just for those who watch GoPro videos, but also for the ones making the videos themselves. It is definitely a new dimension worth exploring and will most likely lead to more projects in the future.