Much of the news cycle over the last month has been focused on Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year old who disappeared while out on a run in rural Iowa. The country has long been captivated by missing persons stories, and just look at the continued ratings of Dateline, and the increase in true crime documentaries available for streaming. The public wants to find them. They want to know who (if any) are responsible for the disappearance. And the news coverage can truly be captivating. In fact, I watched a Dateline a few weeks ago where a couple from Washington state flew to a rural town in the Midwest to assist in the rescue efforts of a woman there. While it may seem weird to glorify these disappearances, it would seem that the more press covering the topic, the better. So why hasn’t VR been more prominent.
Some search parties that go off into the woods to look for any clues have members of the news media along with them to document the effort. It is helpful to get a sense of the scope of the search, but VR would seem to be a great next step. Some searches go on for 8 or more hours each day and can cover hundreds of acres. With that kind of size being searched it’s hard to truly grasp the situation if you are not there. I believe VR would help to bring the search to more people’s eyes, and lead people further removed from the situation to find more opportunities to assist from afar. That could mean donating to a fund to pay for food, water, and other supplies for volunteer search members. Donations could also go to the family to help them as they may take weeks or months of unpaid time off from work.
This video can work as an example of using a 360 video in the search for a missing person.
A fully formed field test would involve joining a search party and using a 360 degree camera to show the happenings. Success rates could be measured from views to the webpage or video as compared to one with a more traditional accompanying video. With something so personal it really helps to put the viewer as close to the scene as possible. At this point there is nothing more akin to that than VR.