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Nelly Ben Hayoun to advise the United Nations VR Lab

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Nick Ballon: Nelly Ben Hayoun during Disaster Playground project

Designer Nelly Ben Hayoun will become an advisor to the United Nations Virtual Reality Lab, founded by Gabo Arora. The programme based in New York City explores the potential role of VR in raising awareness of the world’s humanitarian crises. Its virtual reality films, shown at high-level UN meetings, delve into the human stories behind development challenges and aim to “amplify the voices of those who are often unheard.”

Nelly will be acting as advisor to the UNVR Lab, drawing on her expertise in experience design to further the project, as well as engaging diplomats and the public through events and talks.

“We both feel that immersive experiences, VR and experience design in general, can extend to the scale of architecture, social systems and play a role in politics,” Nelly tells It’s Nice That. “My PhD is all about the design of experiences, political philosophy and power structures in federal institutions, so it was a good fit.”

Nelly’s work aims to uncover experiences the public wouldn’t normally have access to, like Disaster Playground, which explored the design of emergency procedures in the space programme during asteroid impacts. “In that sense I work to challenge our access to knowledge and narration through immersion,” she explains. “Gabo, meanwhile, is a UN activist and has created many films where he uses VR as an empathy machine, for example Clouds over Sidra.”

Nelly and Gabo will work on a talk series for April 2017 at the United Nations’ New York headquarters on immersive experiences shifting power structures.

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Gabo Arora and UNVR: Clouds over Sidra