The first time Alvaro Morales tried virtual reality, it was November of 2015, around Thanksgiving. One minute he was at home, and the next he was in Paris. Here's Alvaro talking about the experience.
It seemed very natural feeling like I can travel or feeling that VR, I was someplace else. I saw a huge value in that and I was really enamored by that idea of feeling like I was somewhere else, especially being somewhere I can physically be.
For Alvaro, it was personal. He was an undocumented immigrant at the time, and he'd experienced what it was like to be separated from family and knew dozens of people in similar situations. So he had this idea. A virtual postcard, similar to a handwritten note. He'd record messages abroad, and then bring them back to families here in the US. But unlike a handwritten note, these VR postcards would transport people back home in a new and radical way. Alvaro partnered with a friend named Frizzly Soberonus and the Family Reunions Project was born.
You're really cold, in what is really 360 days here. Anywhere you looked, you can't escape being in a different world, and I think that really almost straight to the brain and that's just very different from any other meeting we currently have available.
In their first year, Alvaro and Frizzly virtually reunited somewhere between 12 and 16 families. Then last year, Alvaro started working with a woman named Gladys. Gladys is originally from Peru, but currently lives in Los Angeles. She hasn't been able to go back home in 23 years. This has been incredibly difficult for her. Her mom, who's in her 80s, is very ill and Gladys likely won't be able to return home for the funeral or for her mom's final days.