14 May 2024 | Guest Writer
Bridging Worlds: Niantic, AR, and Creating Hope in Haiti
AWE USA 2024

Last year's Augmented World Expo (AWE) was more than a showcase of groundbreaking spatial computing technology; it was a pivotal moment for us at Hope for Haiti, a nonprofit dedicated to poverty alleviation in Haiti through education, healthcare, clean water and economic development. Sometimes, the best ideas come out of happy hours. After a full day of sessions at the AR VR conference, I was ready to grab some food and a drink during the evening event. 

I struck up a conversation with Chanel Phengdy, Global Developer Program Manager, from Niantic (the visionary company behind popular AR games like Pokemon Go), and we had an inspiring conversation on how AR technology can be used for social impact. 

To keep up with changing donor patterns, nonprofit organizations need new ways to raise support and awareness and support. In 2023, charitable giving was down 20 - 30%, according to Charity Navigator. The landscape of philanthropy is rapidly evolving and COVID sped up our integration into the digital world. 

Most of us have a smartphone sitting just a few inches away from our hands, at any given moment. By tapping into AR, we can connect with new audiences and supporters who we would not have reached otherwise. 

Partners with Shared Values

Niantic's commitment to leveraging AR technology for social good resonates deeply with our shared missions. We also believe in using innovation to address real-world challenges that create meaningful change.

Chanel had the great idea of a tangible way we could together achieve a partnership around philanthropy; through a developer challenge. Niantic asked their community to build WebAR experiences on 8thWall that not only showcase technological innovation but also uplift critical work in Haiti. 

This challenge was an opportunity for developers to utilize WebAR, immersive storytelling, and their skills to make real world impact - while also competing for $15,000 in prizes. You can check out all the winners here, and also in this year’s AWE Playground (booth 1046). 

Three  of our favorites included:

Rise Together: Join Captain Doty, Niantic’s iconic mascot, as the lovable yeti completes different challenges like building a water well or planting crops which are based on world tracking, character controller, and trigger events by proximity or interaction.

Voices for Haiti: Chat with a fully animated and knowledgeable AI Hope for Haiti representative! An AI x AR avatar jumps out of your screen and is ready to answer questions about Haiti and our work. 

Day of Hope: A gamified experience showcasing how Hope for Haiti assists children through all of their different programs including healthcare, access to clean water, and education. 

Not only are we able to share Haiti’s story in a different way with these augmented reality apps, each experience has a way for the user to directly support critical projects in Haiti, and all donations will be matched by Niantic. 

A donate page appears at the end of each AR experience and every donation, no matter how big or small, will be generously matched up to $5k. Our goal is to raise $10k during AWE! 

Building global connections with AR

Another way AWE attendees can have an impact, while also getting some fresh air, is during the Hike for Haiti Challenge on June 19th. In the rural community of Marre à Coiffe, Haiti, students and families climb the equivalent of 200 flights of stairs from the bottom of a mountain in order to access clean water, healthcare, and their education. Every year people all over the world walk with them, in solidarity, hiking from wherever they are.

We are excited to have our first ever in-person AWE Hike for Haiti, in partnership with Niantic 8thWall! Our morning community hike will leave from the venue and we'll walk together approximately 2 miles along the Long Beach shoreline. Grab your spot here! Your registration directly supports our work in Haiti. And with every registration comes a chance to win prizes, including tickets to AWE 2025! And the first 20 people who register for the Hike will also receive Niantic swag.

Our partnerships with both AWE and Niantic have unlocked a new realm of possibilities for Hope for Haiti. Through AR technology, we're not just telling Haiti's story; we're inviting the world to be a part of it. As we look ahead, we're excited to continue leveraging innovation and collaboration to drive meaningful change and empower communities in Haiti and beyond. Join us for the Hike and in the Playground at this year’s AWE event as we embark together on a journey of hope.

About the Guest Author: Sarah Porter is the Director of Innovative Philanthropy with Hope for Haiti


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