VR isn’t all fun and games. One company is using it to put VR users in the middle of breaking news stories and to show them what it feels like to face a natural or man-made disaster. For example one company, Emblematic Group, has a created a VR simulation of a refugee camp and a food line to show folks what it feels like, say, to watch a man have a diabetic seizure because of lack of food.
Obviously these things are still pretty far out of the uncanny valley – you can’t really simulate all the horrors of existence in VR – but given the immersive nature of the medium and our own ability to suspend disbelief it’s a start.
To a degree a VR solution should be more effective than real-life immersive videos and images. Video game story lines can be very moving – just recall how your mind filled in the blanks when it came to Legend of Zelda or Space Invaders – and a story line focusing on world hunger or destruction can be pretty compelling. Further, VR representations of real-world events can also create a sense of urgency and prepare first responders and citizen for them when they happen in real life.
“It wasn’t until I started working with virtual reality that I started to see really intense reactions from people to news stories,” said Emblematic CEO and journalist Nonny de la Peña in an interview.
Other VR projects include a Japanese VR training system designed to show people how to escape from a tsunami. These sorts of simulations can prepare folks for the worst in an environment that, presumably, won’t kill them if things go wrong.
VR has a long way to go but the possibilities, once the technical hurdles are jumped, are limitless. One interesting potential VR solution comes up in educational circles. By creating virtual exchange students, for example, a student in a distant country could go to school in Brooklyn or San Francisco while a student in the US could see how other students learn abroad. This sort of connection – the connection born of immersion in another’s culture and country – is absolutely imperative and surprisingly powerful.