BlackRhino VR To Tell the True African Story in Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is still very much a new technology for many parts of the world, and VR-focused education has even less global coverage. Determined to change the status quo, BlackRhino VR was established in 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya, taking its name from the eponymous species native to eastern and southern Africa. Following its establishment, BlackRhino focused on producing documentaries and human interest stories for corporate clients and NGOs. Constantly having their finger on the pulse of advancing technology, BlackRhino began creating VR content.
Brian Afande was brand manager at Converse for 7 years before he joined forces with Dan Nduati, managing director of a creative agency named Brand2D; and Micheal Ilako, who gave up on a 4-year medicine program to attend the Mo Amin School of journalism which enabled him to become a movie director. Together the three founded BlackRhino and become the Head of Business Development, Production and Strategy respectively.
Meet the Crew (left to right): Brian Afande – Co-founder, Michael Ilako – Co-founder, Haika Msaky-Producer, Isa Mohamed-Editor, Judy Ghadi-Producer, Sammuel Kamau-Editor
Brian sums up BlackRhino’s venture into the unchartered waters of VR into one word, “speculation”. To elaborate, he explains: “When Facebook acquired Oculus for 2 Billion dollars, this for us was an eye opener and clear indication on where the social media giant was going…After doing extensive research we found out that there was no VR company in East Africa and more so in sub-saharan Africa. So we decided to take a leap of faith and venture in a business based on a calculated risk into the future and our passion for storytelling.”
There being no VR school or institution offering VR-focused training, much less how the technology can be applied to the unique context in Africa, the creatives at BlackRhino went through countless online VR forums to understand virtual reality, as well as its applications and limitations. Another enormous challenge was to import the right kind of equipment and software to Kenya.
BlackRhino’s services are divided into three distinctive structures in catering to the African market:
A). Immersive documentary and News format content
Determined to have a positive impact on society, BlackRhino VR aspires to create immersive and compelling experiences that connect with people. With these efforts they hope to amplify the often-unheard voices, particularly Africa’s most vulnerable and inspire change and improve lives.
BlackRhino believes that knowledge is a human right and immersive VR technology has the power to educate children in Africa. They’re currently building an educational VR platform where they use virtual reality to create edutainment experiences across topics such as science, humanities, music and sports, out of hopes for reforming Africa’s education system.
C). Marketing and Advertising
They also create interactive and immersive experiences for different corporations and medium-sized companies and NGOs that bring their key brand messages to life in an immersive way.
A client enjoying BlackRhino’s experiences at a trade execution in Nairobi
In regards to VR devices, Brian recommends that a novice VR enthusiast to begin with the Ricoh Theta S and Samsung Gear 360. As he introduces, Samsung Gear360 and Ricoh Theta S are user-friendly, easily portable, and have self-stitching software that makes the workflow easier and output faster. For a more professional camera solution they recommend the 360RIZE 6 camera GoPro rig and zoom H2N recorder for spatial audio, and Autopano Giga & Mettle SkyBox for post.
Michael, one of BlackRhino’s cofounders setting up a 360 camera in Angola
VR is still in its infancy stages in Sub-Saharan Africa, contrasting the steadily increasing appetite for VR in Kenya. BlackRhino believes, nevertheless, that this trend is “the beginning of the widespread VR adoption into the country and into the rest of East, Central and West Africa”.
It’s said on BlackRhino’s official page that their mission is to make Africa’s unique experiences and cultural heritage accessible to everyone. With their long-term goal of scaling their operation to several African countries and to equip young Africans to be the future story tellers of the world, they’re already taking steady steps toward establishing a virtual reality training center in Kenya.
For more information, visit BlackRhino’s official webpages:
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