“There’s something always hard about getting people who don’t experience it on a daily basis to really understand it and, we hope, to empathize with what people experience there,” said Ariel Rubin, who’s in charge of digital content with the ICRC.
“Augmented reality was really an opportunity to try something new and to try to get people to really see something we unfortunately see far too often.”
The app, which is free and available through the Apple App Store, accesses your smartphone’s camera and invites you to walk through a door. What you see on your screen is a child’s room that you can explore by moving your phone around.
The visuals span several years and the environment gets increasingly worse for the child. Lights flicker on and off and bombs and gunfire can be heard. The window and walls of the room are destroyed and a wheelchair appears in the child’s room.
“This idea of being able to create a portal — quite literally a door — where you can walk through and you’re in an really idyllic childhood bedroom — that really could be anyone’s childhood bedroom, mine or yours — and the slow kind of disintegration into a different world, which is all too real for so many people around the world, is that really transformative, really powerful aspect,” Rubin said.
Watch below: “Enter the Room” is the ICRC’s new augmented reality app depicting the impacts of war
While it may not be an experience many Canadians are familiar with, it’s one many children around the world face, he said.
“War is back in cities. We’re seeing urban violence back in a really shocking, really disturbing way.
“There was just a Save The Children report out the other week that said one in six children live in conflict-affected areas worldwide.”
The augmented reality experience is visceral and disturbing and that’s the point, Rubin said.
“It’s a really powerful and palpable sense of: ‘Oh my gosh.’ It kind of shocks you where it goes.
“We’ve now been showing it around the world and I’ve had colleagues and friends in the Philippines, Senegal, in Buenos Aires, in Beirut, and across the board… the biggest reaction has probably been: ‘This could be my daughter’s bedroom.'”