Morgan Mercer’s Vantage Point is creating virtual reality training experiences in order to cultivate the skills to break the stigma around sexual assault and and to overcome the bystander effect. They’re using the affordances of VR & 360 video in order to recreate contexts that could lead to sexual assault, and then creating training modules aim to help people to identify these situations and how to intervene. They’re hoping that being exposed to interactive simulations can help train the cultural skills required in order to either physically intervene in situations where someone is vulnerable or to verbally respond to social situations where there is inappropriate language or abusive behavior.
The VR horror experience of Catatonic helped Mercer to realize the emotional power of virtual reality, and it give her a visceral experience for how VR could be used as a powerful educational tool. Existing sexual assault training often relies upon improv playacting, and it’s not as effective as being immersed within a context and scenario in virtual reality. Being in a VR experience can more accurately replicate the pressure of being embodied within a situation where you feel the emotions of that context, and you’re presented with the paradox of choice of how to intervene, and then are provided an opportunity for making a choice and taking action. It’s all of these things together that makes virtual reality such a powerful medium for training. Vantage Point is currently creating modules for passive and active bystander training, identifying social stigmas around sexual assault, and receiving response training from sexual assault survivors who share their own experiences with the larger dynamics of sexual assault.
I had a chance to catch up with Morgan Mercer at Oculus Connect 4 last year when she was still recruiting producers and directors for her projects. Since that time, Vantage Point was accepted into the The Women in XR Venture Fund’s Cohort 1 last December, and they recently announced a round of $1.3 million seed funding from The Venture Reality Fund, Village Global, Colopl NEXT Fund, MVentures, Anorak Ventures, and Josh Resnick.
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