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BBC launches VR app with new documentary series

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The BBC is launching Damming the Nile VR, a two-part virtual reality news documentary series exploring the water politics of the river Nile. Produced by BBC VR Hub and BBC News, the two-part series is available now through a new BBC VR app on the Oculus Gear VR store.

Damming the Nile VR transports viewers on a fascinating journey down the famous river, taking in its beautiful sights and dramatic sounds as they travel through canyons and fly above waterfalls. But it’s also where the world’s first war over water could be fought. A major new project - the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – threatens to upset the balance of power between neighbours and rivals Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Following BBC Africa Correspondent, Alastair Leithead, on assignment across the Nile, Damming the Nile VR gives audiences a unique perspective on the dispute. They’ll join the crew as they hear from locals in the cafés of Khartoum and street corners of Sudan, meet the richest man in Sudan, and grill ministers fighting their countries’ corners. They’ll also be able to inspect the dam up-close, explore ancient Sudanese pyramids and Egyptian temples from a hot air balloon, before coming back down to earth in chaotic Cairo.

Viewers will have enjoyed 360 news pieces from the BBC before, but never like this. The film is in full immersive VR, is stereoscopic and features fully spatialised audio. Damming the Nile VR also features music from The Nile Project, a collective of musicians from countries along the river, including songs from their new album.

BBC VR Hub is also launching a new BBC VR app on the Oculus Gear VR store, which will be the home of high quality mobile VR experiences from the BBC. The following previously released VR titles will join Damming the Nile VR in the app at launch, with others coming throughout the year:

  • The Turning Forest: an award-winning virtual reality fairy tale, where audiences enter a magical forest and embark on an extraordinary adventure with a fantastical creature.
  • Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel: Step into one man’s memories and journey back to a moment that changed Irish History forever: the 1916 Easter Rising
  • Himalayas: A Trek to School: Join two sisters from a remote Himalayan village as they travel up to six hours each day to reach their school in a nearby town
  • Bloodhound: The supersonic car is aiming to break the world land speed record - and be the first to reach 1,000mph. Experience the car in 360, and take a seat where fighter pilot Andy Green sits.

Damming the Nile VR will be available to watch via a new website, bbc.co.uk/virtualreality, along with other BBC VR highlights. In addition to watching the series on a Samsung Gear VR, both parts can viewed in full on YouTube with or without a VR headset like a Google Cardboard. A special 360° version of the films will be available to view to watch through the BBC News website and on Facebook. The story will aired as a news documentary on BBC TV channels, and will be available to read on the BBC News website.

Alastair Leithead, BBC Africa Correspondent, says: “As a foreign correspondent, my job is to introduce people to new and fascinating places, challenge stereotypes and explain how countries are growing and changing. Virtual reality means films like Damming the Nile VR can actually take our audiences there so they can see it for themselves. Once you put on a headset and enter the virtual world, you come with us on assignment to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to explore their issues up close, and understand the politics of the Nile through a unique new perspective.”

Zillah Watson, head of BBC VR Hub, says: “We want to create high quality mobile VR pieces that give audiences experiences they can’t find anywhere else. Damming the Nile VR does this by making you feel like you’re there, unearthing the story as you go, and getting a better understanding of the different cultures and points of view at play. Audiences can also enjoy the sheer scale and beauty of the Nile, alongside the major infrastructure projects that have shaped its past and will continue to shape its future.”