Most of us probably won’t get the opportunity to visit North Korea, but in lieu of that, a Swedish startup may have just created the next best thing: a virtual reality tour of Pyongyang.
Users can now explore the streets of North Korea’s capital city via SceneThere’s proprietary virtual reality platform. Rather than a garden-variety 360-video, North Korea VR is much more in-depth and lets viewers explore Pyongyang at their own pace. It’s definitely an interesting perspective, as most media coverage of North Korea leaves out what it’s actually like to live in the hermit kingdom. In North Korea VR, viewers can see citizens of the country go about their everyday lives as they normally would. The footage is narrated by North Korea scholar Andray Abrahamian.
To put together the VR experience, SceneThere CEO Marcus Olsson collected footage using six GoPro cameras lashed to a pole during a visit to North Korea in September 2016. While filming in the authoritarian country is notoriously difficult, it was much easier for Olsson, as his visit was officially arranged by the Choson Exchange, an organization that supports North Korean entrepreneurs.
“I didn’t have the same restrictions as tourists or journalists because I was there to give a speech and educate North Koreans about the startup mindset,” Olson told Mashable, adding that it’s particularly hard for those in the media to “get in touch” with the everyday experience.
But even though he was much less restricted than other visitors, he was still not allowed to film or document certain aspects of North Korean life. “This is not investigative journalism — we were never alone when filming,” Olsson pointed out. Another issue is that, as many tourists learn when they visit the country, North Korean authorities work tirelessly to put up a good front for foreigners. Visitors are exposed only to experiences that the government allows them to, which often amounts to fake or rigged events. Despite those issues, SceneThere’s North Korea experience is definitely worth checking out. North Korea VR is available as a download for Gear VR. Additionally, a preview is also viewable online.