Oculus' VR for Good program wants to do more than games

VR films to inspire social change

Virtual reality is more than just for gaming and entertainment. Oculus knows this, and to that end it's starting the VR for Good program to inspire filmmakers to create VR films for social change.

Oculus has already dabbled with creating VR films about social issues with the film Clouds Over Sidra, which follows a young Syrian refugee in Jordan. The film helped raise $3.8 billion for UNICEF.

The VR for Good initiative will feature two programs: one for high school students and another for nonprofit organizations.

The first program, dubbed 360 Filmmakers Challenge for Students, will pair nine San Francisco Bay Area high schools with professional filmmakers to create 3-5 minute 360 films about their communities.

Students will be provided a Samsung Gear VR, Galaxy S6, Ricoh Theta S360 cameras and video editing software. It's interesting that Oculus isn't giving students the latest Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone nor the company's just-released Gear 360 camera, but at least it's lending them the equipment needed to create films.

The second program, called 360 Bootcamp for Nonprofits, will partner 10 rising filmmakers with 10 nonprofits to highlight a variety of social missions. The program will launch this summer and kick off at Facebook's headquarters for a two-day bootcamp starting July 26.

Filmmakers will be provided all the tools they need, plus post-production support, a travel budget, and one-on-one mentorship from industry veterans.

Starting May 30, nonprofits can nominate their organization to take part in the program. After the films are shot and edited, Oculus plans to unveil them at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where it's been wooing filmmakers for the past few years.