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PETA spotlights animal cruelty through VR at immersive tech conference this weekend

peta2's I, Chicken Virtual Reality
PETA isn’t new to utilizing emerging technology to show the public some of the horrors of animal abuse, and the organization is bringing its stories to a virtual reality and immersive technology conference this weekend.

PETA will share its virtual reality experiences — which include immersive videos allowing audiences to “see, feel, and hear what it’s like to be a chicken facing danger from the food industry or to take a swim with a grieving orca mother whose baby was stolen from her and forced to live in a tiny tank,” according to a release — at the Immersed 2016 conference in Toronto, Canada. The conference begins tomorrow, Oct. 16, and ends on Oct. 18.

The experiences and PETA’s expertise will be shared as part of the keynote at the conference, when James Rodgers, the head of PETA’s Innovations Department, discusses how “emerging technologies can help users develop empathy for animals,” the release said.

Attendees will have the opportunity to experience firsthand these horrors of animal cruelty, through PETA’s I, Chicken VR video, as well as I, Orca. In I,Chicken, viewers take the point of view of a roosting chicken, first enjoying their time in a field with their flock, and later getting put into a truck to slaughter. The effect of watching the video, Rogers estimates, is that 20 percent of those who view I, Chicken will vow to stop eating animals.

In I, Orca, viewers will be presented with a virtual reality look at the ocean, and a narrative discussing how SeaWorld and other companies that house animals and use them for entertainment present problems to the ethical handling of marine life.

According to the release, PETA will also make use of a life-sized robot elephant named Ellie, voiced by Quantico star Priyanka Chopra. The robot tours schools across the country “to tell students why elephants don’t want to be kept in chains and forced to perform tricks in circuses.”

PETA will also feature an artificial intelligence-powered robot named H.E.R.O.Bot to answer questions regarding the ethical treatment of animals from attendees.

Rogers said in the release that by harnessing virtual reality, PETA can further advance its cause and engage others to act.

“Emerging technology, especially VR, is very powerful, and in the right hands, it can change people’s behaviors, alleviate pain and suffering, and even make us more mindful — something religions have been grappling with for millennia,” he said.

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