If there is one thing that political consultants love, it’s finding new and unique ways to get a campaign message across. In the 2016 cycle alone, we saw the use of big data and analytics evolve to a point where micro-targeted messaging became so granular that campaigns were essentially personalized by voter.
After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton, there has been some debate in the political campaign world about how much is too much when it comes to reliance on new technologies. That debate may never be fully resolved, but one thing is certain: it isn’t stopping anyone from experimenting with cutting edge campaign techniques. Imagine a world where hundreds of voters could attend a raucous Bernie Sanders rally – or a debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, all from the comfort of their own bedroom.
Before you scoff, you should know this is a lot closer to being a reality than being a joke.
Hiking Through Yosemite with President Obama in Virtual Reality
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and to celebrate, then-President Barack Obama took a stroll through Yosemite National Park with National Geographic. And the best part? You could practically go with him. The whole thing was shot in 360-degree video and was made in conjunction with Oculus – meaning if you were so inclined, you could strap on a VR headset and cruise through the mountains with Obama and a park ranger.
Now who wouldn’t want to do that?
Feeling the Bern – And Seeing it in 360 Degree VR
Back in the 2016 Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders rallies were all the rage – they were essentially a two-hour-long Coachella, often with 30,000 people packed into them (and like Coachella, they were a total cash cow). But there were plenty of Sanders supporters who never got to attend a rally. VR to the rescue.
The Sanders campaign became the first in history to appear in VR — no doubt greatly expanding the fundraising power of a single event. You can bet that if adding VR to campaign events becomes a serious money maker for candidates, then it will become standard practice faster than you can say “the top 1%.”
Thinking Big: Fostering Empathy Through Technology
If the 2016 presidential campaign taught us anything, it’s that “It’s a truism of history that in a time of upheaval and change, empathy is the first virtue to go,” as Will Byrne and Dale Knauss wrote in Fast Company in January. ”
Our current moment is no different,” they continued. “This weekend’s sweeping immigration ban, signed by the Trump administration to block people from seven Muslim-majority countries entry into the United States is just the latest in a regrettable pattern. It’s visible in the hyper-partisanship in our politics, eroding trust across socioeconomic groups, and the rise of fear-based extremism worldwide: tribal instincts are getting the better of many of us.”
Is VR the answer to breaking the fever of the vicious partisan gridlock currently gripping our nation from the alleys of Los Angeles to the trails of Appalachia? Actually, it might be.
This week at San Francisco Design Week, some of the leading voices in this space are putting their heads together to figure out this exact problem. Using VR to raise money for nonprofits, shedding light on children in in refugee camps, and treat veterans with PTSD, are all noble causes that will be on the table. VR campaigning might not be a tried and true tool that political consultants are ready to invest in just yet, but trailblazers take note: you never know when an emerging technology will break though.
And hey, these days a good set of VR goggles will only run you a few hundred bucks.