Enter the Room is a new augmented reality experience released by the International Red Cross and developed by digital innovation agency Nedd using Apple ARKit technology as an augmented reality experience of life as a child in a warzone.

There’s not much word mincing that can be done about Enter the Room but the experience isn’t designed that way. The ICRC have utilised new augmented reality technology to bring the horror of a modern conflict zone straight to your device and raise awareness of those who are currently living in such an awful situation. The idea itself is intriguing; using the latest advance in technological exploration to present the most awful of human tragedies. Whether it works in practice is another matter.

The simple fact is something like Enter the Room is almost impossible to write about (thanks Tom) (Editor’s note: Yeah sorry about that). A technological novelty it might be, but it’s not designed to be a tech demo. Nor can it really be judged as a simple artistic piece, its designed to make one feel obviously but that is certainly not its purpose, to make one spare a fleeting thought for others before continuing on with your day.

Enter the Room is a call to action, a demonstration of technology to push the viewer to support the ICRC and that adds a whole new dimension to any analysis. Despite this complication its possible perhaps to answer one question; does the Enter the Room Experience successfully push the viewer? From a personal perspective, I can say it does and just as importantly I would urge everyone else to try it for themselves.

As the ICRC’s director of communications and information management, Charlotte Lindsey-Curtet, puts it “While Pokemon Go and Snapchat have already introduced the world to augmented reality, this is the first time AR has been used to tell the story of the impact of urban conflict” giving organisations like the Red Cross the chance to “showcase the humanitarian situation in a new and deeply moving way.” And there’s no doubt that this definitely a first. While humanitarian organisations have been quick to utilise social media and modern technology an augmented experience of this nature has not, to the best of my knowledge, been done before.

The experience, although quite big in terms of download, goes by surprisingly quickly, but the impact of it will stay with you for much longer. Enter the Room puts the user directly into a generic children’s bedroom for a brief  set of episodes set over four years. (Side note: the small size of the setting means it’s not something you can do on the move, you’ll need to find yourself a well-lit, sizeable room to fully embrace the experience.) In the room, the player can move around an explore its contents while from a nearby window the sounds of the outside world can be heard. It’s a very intimate and minimalist setting but carries an incredibly powerful message. This is a war from a child’s eyes.

There’s no grand political explanation of the conflict’s causes and status, only the damage and suffering. The conflict itself is merely sound coming through a window, gunshots and screams at the beginning, gradually turning into room rocking explosions and heavy gunfire at the end. Meanwhile the notable developments are in the room itself, as it gradually degrades and objects in it are added, removed or changed in frankly heart-breaking ways.

What is so unnerving about Enter the Room is the fact that it takes place in an utterly unremarkable setting. It could be any child’s room, in any part of the world, tearing away the potential veneer of comfort even the most apathetic might have in thinking “well war isn’t happening near me.”

There are many who believe that our society has become heartless thanks to constant exposure to advertisements for charities showing children suffering, and there are those who believe that any move to help charities and those in need is just “virtue signaling” and that their apathy makes them a better person. Enter the Room has a response to both these groups and everyone in between. A marvel of modern technology, allowing you to intimately explore and experience the world of a terrified child, suffering in a conflict that they have no stake in and makes no consideration for them is enough.

Enough for me to return to the answer I made at the beginning: the moment the experience ended, I immediately subscribed to the ICRC’s mailing letter. (This is helped, at least in part, by a very effective call to action screen that ends the experience). I would strongly recommend anyone who reads this to download Enter the Room and experience it for themselves.

The full experience can be found here: http://info.icrc.org/enter-the-room

Alex Roberts

 

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