philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Young Latinos use virtual reality to reunite immigrant families separated by borders Morales, 26, and Frisly Soberanis, 24, are the creators of the Family Reunions Project, an initiative that uses virtual reality, also known as VR, to "take" family members in the U.S. back to their homes and towns in Latin America through the use of immersive video.

Morales, a Peruvian-born former economic consultant and a graduate of Amherst College, originally came up with the idea after he showed his uncle a VR film. After watching it, his uncle told him he would give anything to have somebody film his home country so he could see it again. The interaction motivated Morales to quit his consulting job and partner up with Soberanis, a Guatemala-born video artist and a graduate of the Academy for Careers in TV and Film, to launch the project.

Through grants and donations, primarily from the organization Immigrants Rising and their Fund for Undocumented Social Entrepreneurs (FUSE), the Family Reunions Project has been able to do over a dozen virtual family reunions for people like Maria, who did not want to publish her last name due to her immigration status. She came from Arequipa, Perú over 20 years ago and still remembered the last time she hugged her siblings and mother.

According to Morales, the Family Reunions Project is innovative because it breaks with the assumption that VR technology is just for gamers and entertainment. And though the topic of immigration has been so polarizing politically, Morales hopes that technology can help humanize the issue.

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