Ricoh is an official partner that supports the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), where it held an event titled “SDGs experienced with 360-degree images — Issues in faraway countries are still events that take place on our planet.” The event was about SDGs using 360-degree images and ran for 9 days from March 18 (Sat.) to26 (Sun.), 2023.
This event provided information about various social issues and the initiatives to resolve them, and it also gave visitors to the event the opportunity to learn about and consider SDGs by allowing them to experience in VR the living conditions of regions that are said to be “the most difficult places to send aid” within developing countries.
We created a virtual tour in the exhibition hall using the “Virtual Tour Creation Service THETA 360.biz” for which the details are shown below.
We also talked to Ms. Sasaki from the Media Design Department in the Ricoh Communications Strategy Center who was in charge of this project about its background, the value of 360-degree images, and how these images are used, so have included this interview below.
First, lets take a look at the virtual tour in the exhibition hall.
The highlight of this event is “SDGs experienced with 360-degree images in VR.” At the “② VR for SDGs (VR headset)” area of the virtual tour shown above, visitors can wear a VR headset and watch immersive 360-degree images to experience places with social issues as though they were actually there.
At the “③ SDGs issues panel” area, photo sand text are used to describe the issues faced by developing countries in terms of such things as water, hygiene, and electricity. However, cropped photos tend to just show a picture that focuses on certain phenomena arising from social issues. Therefore, by using 360-degree images at the “② VR for SDGs (VR headset)” area we were able to provide visitors with a way of viewing the situation in places where social issues happen as though they were actually there. This made the visitors begin exploring for answers to questions such as what or which places and conditions cause social issues. Facing and understanding social issues as we observe and imagine them are considered important to resolving these social issues so 360-degree images can help to achieve this goal. It is also no easy task to visit places with social issues that are in another country or far away due to time and financial reasons as well as safety concerns. However, by viewing 360-degree images, we can understand the actual location where social issues are being tackled in various countries, enabling us to then consider these issues and gain inspiration to take action.
We asked Ms. Sasaki from the Media Design Department, Ricoh Communications Strategy Center who was in charge of this project about the background to this project, the value of 360-degree images, and how these images are used.
•Why did you decide to hold this event and could you tell us about the background to this project?
When I was considering a special exhibition to be held at the Miraikan, which is sponsored by Ricoh, I decided that I wanted to use Ricoh technology and products at the exhibition. At that time, I accidentally came across an example of the 360-degree camera RICOH THETA being used in the first issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review Japan, which a friend of mine was involved in the launch. The example showed the use of360-degree images to promote understanding of places with social issues and how such images were used to raise awareness of social innovation among the activities to resolve social issues through the use of simple technology by Kopernik, the international NGO organization. RICOH THETA was actually used to create these 360-degree images. I thought that they were truly wonderful activities and it made me very happy to see THETA being used in these activities. That was when I decided that I wanted to show everyone what Kopernik was doing in their activities and provide information about places with social issues through the use of 360-degree images so I began to work on this project.
•Please tell us what you wanted to convey and what did you focus on during this event.
I have been responsible for disseminating information about SDGs and ESG while in the corporate communications division so I wanted to convey Ricoh’s contribution to resolving social issues through the company’s various business activities that include its products, services, and social contribution activities. Also, it appears that recently there are more schools providing opportunities for their students to learn about SDGs so I thought it would be a good idea to make the event into an opportunity for children visiting the Miraikan to brush up on what they had learned at school so that when they are older they might remember this experience and it would inspire them to work on issues faced by society.
For the event, rather than focusing on giving visitors a lot of information, I focused on setting up several locations where visitors can view 360-degree images using VR headsets so that they can feel a sense of reality as look at the 360-degree images. The saying goes that to see is to believe... Different people are curious about different things when they look at 360-degree images so each person discovers something different within the images. For example, when a stray dog appears in an image, even though it is considered a social issue because it is dangerous, a person looking at the dog may feel sorry for the dog on seeing it is skinny due to lack of food, and this is fine that they see it differently. I just want people who look at the images to get a sense of the situation because there is no correct answer.
We also exhibited products such as water purifiers and power generators created with simple technology, making it possible for people to actually see specific solutions to these social issues. You cannot usually see these products unless you go to the places experiencing social issues but actually showing them at the event allowed people to see the products as they are in real life.
Thanks to the effort of everyone involved in the event, the VR experience and the 360-degree images were very popular among our visitors. Many people enjoyed and were inspired by the VR experience and we received comments from them such as “through the use of VR I was able to get a real sense of parts of the world I would never have visited.”
•What do you think is the value of 360-degree images?
I believe it is that 360-degree images show us that the truth cannot be found in just what you see in a standard photo, which is limited to fitting a scene into a small square. 360-degree images are not photos or video cropped based on the intention of the photographer, but show the scene as it is and leave it up to the viewer to decide where they want to look and what they want to see. I believe that this leads to the viewer discovering things within the image.
The value of 360-degree images also lies in their ability to provide immersive experiences to everyone.
360-degreeimages enable people to view places with social issues in developing countries where it is not easy for them to travel. Also, if you were not able to visit the event at the Miraikan this time, you can experience the event as though you had actually come by taking this virtual tour. The more 360-degree images and virtual tours become widespread, the more opportunities there will be for people who cannot travel for various reasons to experience far away places.
• Virtual Tour Creation ServiceTHETA360.biz
• VR for SDGs: 360-degree images used at this event were made available thanks to the cooperation of Kopernik Japan who jointly sponsored the event.