The Red Cross Uses AR and VR to Enter a Child’s Room in Wartime –

War turns a little girl’s bright, colorful room filled with toys and plush animals into a dark den of despair in this affecting augmented reality experience from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“Enter the Room,” free for iPhone 6S and higher, takes an intensely personal and affecting approach, which you can sample in the trailer below:

Unlike some VR experiences that deal with similar subject matter, don’t expect scenes of battle-torn streets or towns reduced to rubble. Instead, Paris agency Nedd, using its inter-dimensional portal technology, creates a quieter but disturbing, 3-D, real-time contrast between war and peace.

And it does so without ever leaving that room, or showing a single human being, including the little girl.

“Today, millions of people around the world are simply unable to flee from war,” Nedd co-founder and creative director Vincent Vella tells Adweek. “For Westerners, even the most conscious and committed, it can sometimes seem like a distant and abstract problem. With this project, we wanted people to feel what it’s like when war arrives at your doorstep. Things happen in a progressive way. We are in an environment that we think is totally protected, and then conflict steadily settles in.”

Here’s an early sequence from the app, when we first get an inkling of the carnage to come:

“For centuries, wars were predominantly fought across vast battlefields, pitting thousands of men, large army corps, and heavy weaponry against each other in open fields,” says Vella. “Cities could be besieged or sacked, but fighting rarely took place in the streets. Today’s armed conflicts look quite different: City centers and residential areas have become the battlefields of our time. Wars have moved into the lives, cities and homes of ordinary people in a more vicious way than ever before.”

As the story unfolds, and the unseen violence beyond the walls rages interminably on, the room falls into ruin. Its plaster peels and the paint fades to gray. With the power long cut, the once-happy space becomes a refuge for rodents, with a wheelchair raising unanswered questions about the fate of its unseen occupant:

The fact that we never see the child, or anyone, makes the experience especially immersive and unsettling.

“It helps viewers imagine themselves in her shoes,” Vella says. “It also requires a little more involvement from the user: He or she has to pay attention to what surrounds them, get close to certain objects, listen to sounds, really experience the room, in order to understand the situation.”

He describes the app as “halfway between AR and VR,” with the doorway that appears at the beginning providing passage from the user’s safe, familiar environment to an incredibly detailed and upsetting one-room virtual world.

Despite the somber scenario, however, Vella views the message as ultimately hopeful and empowering.

“Throughout the whole story, users get the experience of this difficult situation and maybe feel frustrated because they can’t change the course of things,” he says. “But in the end, we want them to realize they can act, by supporting the actions of organizations like the ICRC. We want them to understand that the NGO’s actions on the ground save people who find themselves in this situation—trapped in their own home without access to medical care or food.”

Client: ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross)
Brand Management: Ariel Rubin, Christopher Nicholas

Agency: Nedd
Creative Directors: Vincent Vella, Bruno Samper
Art Directors: Siegfried Rouanet, Amélie Carbon
Copywriters: Vincent Vella, Marylin Beaulieu, Margaux Milesi
Lead Developer: Bastien Merindol