Cannes Lions

Fear of the Sky


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Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has claimed that government forces do not possess or use barrel bombs, though their use has been widely documented. Syrian human rights monitors say that almost 20,000 barrel bombs have killed over 8,000 civilians in the past two years alone.

Amnesty International wanted to provide VR-based tools to Syrian citizen journalists and human rights activists to allow them to tell their personal stories. “Fear of the Sky” uses new web-based VR frameworks to highlight the devastation wrought by Syrian government barrel bombing of the besieged city of Aleppo.

It comprises of specially-created 360-degree photography, witness narration, sound, data and videos gathered by Amnesty-trained Syrian media activists and citizen journalists.

Custom storytelling/content tools were created to allow journalists in conflict zones to craft experiences in VR that drive empathy and, ultimately, contribution.


In the aftermath of barrel bombings and other attacks, citizen journalists visit various attack scenes to document and to create a long-term body of evidence of widespread human rights violations by all sides in the conflict.

High-quality content coming out of this war zone was facilitated by a mobile-first citizen journalism platform for VR content made specifically for the Amnesty team.

“Fear of the Sky” is a web site developed using a new, open source, web-based VR framework called A-Frame. The challenge for the design and development team was to keep pace with this fast-changing codebase being created by a global development community, and in the invention of new interaction design paradigms required for navigating a 3D web.

The site’s responsive web design allows content to automatically adapt to the user’s viewing environment by using fluid layouts, image sizes and grids, and it is aware whether or not the user is using VR hardware.

WebVR is a truly democratizing technology, as it allows developers to build one code base that can be deployed on the web and viewed on just about any platform--including in headsets like the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

In using WebVR, “Fear of the Sky” explores the potential of web-based VR experiences that work in an ordinary desktop and mobile browsers as well.

The project took approximately 3 months to complete, working with partners in Syria, London and San Francisco.


“Fear of the Sky” continues to surpass expectations, reaching a global audience and giving the work of dedicated activists and journalists a platform and tools to tell their stories. Tens of millions of people have responded--spending 1:17 minutes on the site on average--and the campaign has had an immediate impact on monetary donations to Amnesty International.

It has also been featured in Fast Company, The Independent and AdWeek--just to name a few--for its groundbreaking approach to telling personal stories from Syria, as well as its use of new web-based VR frameworks.

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