Your arm-span exceeds the width of room, behind bars, inside the barbed-wire fence. The floor is stained with years of wear. The cell door behind you slams. An inmate utters, “I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been arrested.”
How did you get here without leaving the safety and comfort of your own home?
For the first time, Lockup is no longer confined by the screen. MSNBC and Ovrture have created a virtual reality (VR) app, “Lockup 360”, which puts viewers inside America’s jails and takes one of TV’s most immersive series to a breathtaking new level.
Using the app together with a VR headset, you are in control of the 360° panorama video. In the first episode, you travel inside the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Sacramento. Turning your head one way and then another, you direct your view. You can almost feel the wind from officers running past the cellblocks and basketballs flying overhead in the jail yard.
According to Ovrture founder, Mike Drachkovitch, “Virtual reality alters our perception of self and our place in the world. That’s because it’s a medium unlike any other that transports you into a story. That ability will have a profound impact on how people interact, understand and ultimately behave in the world.”
What makes the innovation of “Lockup 360” especially valuable is its potential to engage the public in a fresh examination of the corrections system. Scott Hooker, Senior Executive Producer at MSNBC, anticipates that, “taking viewers into a new dimension of the story will enrich public understanding of incarceration and spark discussion of some tough issues surrounding criminal justice in the United States.” Just as language is best acquired through immersion in a culture, rather than a classroom, sensing an inmate next to you in a cell is a vastly more intimate experience than simply seeing a face on a screen. This new technology turns audiences from passive viewers into active participants, able to direct their own viewing experience.
This new medium is on the rise. From interstellar travel, to the court of an NBA game, to a college tour, or a walk through ancient Pompeii, new VR content is being produced every day. “Lockup 360” will be the go-to application for viewers who want first-person access into the facilities visited by Lockup field teams.
Accessing virtual reality is simple to download and navigate. The “Lockup 360” app is now available through both Android (Google Play Store) and iOS (Apple App Store). Content is also available through Facebook 360, Oculus Share, Milk VR, Vrideo.com, and YouTube 360.
Don’t have your own VR headset? Samsung’s GearVR is a popular model compatible with the Galaxy Note 4, S6 and S6 edge smartphones. The Zeiss VR One and VisusVR run with most new models of Android and iPhones. Google Cardboard, a more cost-efficient model, is compatible with most types of smartphones as well.