HTC Vive has launched a $10 million program to support virtual reality developers working on projects that drive awareness and understanding of global issues such as famine, poverty, gender disparity, and climate change.
VR technology has drawn a lot of attention, particularly in the last few years, for its ability to stimulate our senses, transport us to an alternate reality, and ultimately entertain us. But beyond the realm of entertainment, VR is also being recognised for its potential to be a catalyst for social good.
"The potential for Virtual Reality to help us learn, understand, and transform the world is limitless," said Cher Wang, chairwoman and CEO of HTC.
"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 affect global change, give voices to the most vulnerable, and provide access to new possibilities for the most marginalized," added Gabo Arora, creator of the United Nations' VR Initiative.
HTC Vive is calling for ideas that will "improve awareness, education, and lead to action", whether that's through virtual reality games, films, or other content.
The initiative has gained the interest of organisations such as the World Food Program.
"There are millions of untold stories in every crisis, especially on the front lines where much of our work takes place," said Corinne Woods, director of communications for the World Food Program. "HTC's support of new ways to tell important stories, and help in shaping innovation for the UN's sustainable development agenda, will build on the impact of our work and take it in new and exciting directions."
HTC Vive will announce the first winners on Earth Day on April 22, 2017.
Vive's main competitor, Oculus, has a similar program called VR for Good.
In November, New York-based entrepreneur Dr Raji Wahidy announced the launch of his startup Virtual Rehab aimed at using VR to rehabilitate and educate prisoners, ultimately preparing them for a better life outside of prison, reducing the number of repeat offences and re-incarceration rates, and easing the burden on taxpayers.