Google uses VR to bring Pride to living rooms, mobile screens

360-degree cameras, Cardboard and VR immerse users in global Pride parades

pride parades

Google is using virtual reality technology to bring LGBTQ Pride parades to people who want but can't attend one.

Dubbing the project #prideforeveryone, Google is documenting Pride parades around the world and delivering them in an immersive experience to people's living rooms and virtual reality (VR) sets.

"Pride is a time to celebrate who you are and who you love," the company wrote in a blog post. "In more than 70 countries, it's a crime to be gay. Even in countries with legal equality, many LGBTQ people face discrimination or violence for being themselves… Let's bring Pride to those who cannot march."

Without virtual reality technology, the Pride parades can be seen on television or they could be streamed online.

Google executives are hoping that its effort will provide a more immersive experience for users, with VR's wrap-around images and surround sound, that will help people feel like they're actually there.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said the project will be a test of Google's VR technology and the user experience it offers.

"The million-dollar question is whether a VR experience is actually better than just watching it on TV. Virtual reality is still so new and pretty clunky with the goggles, so I am not sure the experience is up to expectations yet… So whether it's worth it to the viewer is the question," Kagan said.

Google made a similar effort for Veterans Day parades last year.

This project is intended to give more users the chance to see the parades in their homes and on their mobile screens. Anyone with an Internet-connected mobile device can access the video. Google is also sending its Cardboard VR viewers to LGBTQ centers and other organizations around the world so more people will have access to the experience.

Users also can watch the video on a mobile device or a computer without Google Cardboard. It just won't have the same VR experience.

"This is an interesting twist on virtual reality," Kagan said. "On the bigger picture, allowing people to see things they wouldn't ordinarily experience, from around the world, is always a good thing. Imagine seeing the pyramids or bearing witness to some momentous historic occasion.

"This is a start and all these new technologies have to start someplace," he added.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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