The Guardian’s latest virtual reality (VR) project lets viewers experience what life is like for asylum seekers in the UK, who are waiting to hear whether they will be permitted to stay and make the country their new home.
‘Limbo’ places viewers in the shoes of a newly arrived asylum seeker, guiding them through urban streets to the Home Office, all while listening to a montage of interviews from asylum seekers, immigration lawyers and barristers in the UK.
“There has been a lot of media coverage on the difficulties of leaving a war-torn land and crossing the sea, but there has been less about what happens when you reach the country that you’ve been aiming for,” said Francesca Panetta, executive editor for virtual reality, Guardian News and Media.
“We wanted to give audiences a sense of what it was like to reach a country where you really know nothing about your rights, the system, where you live, and you’re feeling really isolated.”
The experience compliments the publisher’s long-term project ‘New Arrivals‘, which follows the lives of refugees as they settle in Europe.
It was created by the publication’s in-house VR team alongside ScanLAB Projects, who used 3D scanning technology to give the experience a monochrome, sketch-like aesthetic.
“Initially we looked at things like regular 360-degree filming, but the asylum seekers wanted to be anonymous and we thought it would be abstract enough to use this technique to give the viewer the headspace to imagine what it was like if it was them,” explained Shehani Fernando, director, Limbo.
“We love the fact that you are invisible and you can see see through things around you that are almost disembodied and fractured – it really gives you a sense of that isolation.”
The story is about feeling a lack of connection to an environment, explained Panetta, so the team needed to use this technique to make a familiar environment such as cityscapes feel unfamiliar and foreign to viewers.
Limbo is the Guardian’s fourth virtual reality project, following ‘First Impressions’, which enables viewers to explore how a baby sees the world during its first six months. It is available on Daydream View and on YouTube as a 360-degree video.