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Bill Clinton appears in virtual-reality movie on Africa

25 September 2015, 19:09

New York - As world leaders descend on the United Nations this weekend, former President Bill Clinton will be taking them to East Africa through virtual reality.

In a seven-minute movie, viewers with special goggles will be able to follow Clinton's travels. Footage was captured last spring with 360-degree cameras. What you see through the goggles changes as you move your head left, right and even up or down.

Also read: BET’ searches for new talents in Africa

Virtual reality is no longer the domain of just science fiction and video games.

You feel as though you're sitting in the same living room as Clinton chats with an entrepreneur in Karatu, Tanzania, who sells solar-powered products. You appear to share a tent as Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, fit people in Nairobi, Kenya, with hearing aids. The movie also takes you to a Nairobi classroom that is part of a Clinton-backed initiative to improve education for young women and girls. It starts and ends with Clinton talking to you from his desk in New York.

Clinton plans to unveil the movie in New York on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Global Initiative. Heads of states, corporate executives and civil-society leaders in attendance will be able to watch using special goggles, Samsung's Gear VR headset that will be set up in the main lounge.

"The ability of technology like this to bring people together from around the world has the potential to encourage everyone, no matter where they are, to be more engaged in global issues and how to solve them," Clinton said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I enjoyed being able to bring the viewer with me to see the important work being done on the ground in Africa. I hope everyone who watches the film will feel compelled to make a positive difference in their own way."

Rob Holzer of Matter Unlimited, the creative agency behind the movie, said that when people experience the projects rather than just hear about them, they're more likely to volunteer and donate.

Paul Raphael, the movie's co-director, said he was drawn by the immersive nature of virtual reality.

"It's not something you look at in front of you," he said. "It's something you visit, something no film or YouTube video can replicate."

Holzer said other virtual-reality projects with Clinton are planned. The one on Africa will be distributed for free to owners of Gear VR, including a new $99 model Samsung announced Thursday for shipment in November. Gear VR uses technology from Facebook's Oculus virtual-reality business.

A less-immersive version of the movie will be available through Facebook's new 360 feature, which uses mouse and other controls to replicate some of the headset experience. You need a traditional computer or an Android mobile device to view it. There's no support yet for iPhones or iPads.

- AP


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