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10 mind-blowing Oculus Rift experiments that reveal VR's practical potential

Ian Paul | Nov. 26, 2014
The inspiration for the Oculus Rift may have been gaming, but these experiments show how the consumer-grade virtual reality headset could transform more than just your World of Warcraft experience.

Oculus Rift as a promotional tool could go well beyond allowing people to see how cool a specific destination is, as the site Future Travel Experience recently spelled out. Imagine, for example, using a Rift onboard an airplane flying towards your destination. Instead of watching a movie, you pass a few hours on the flight deciding which attractions you want to see by experiencing them before you get there.

Rift med

The Moveo Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing technology for orthopedic surgery, created a training project that lets medical students get a first-person view of an actual surgery.

In June, the group used a dual camera system attached to a doctor's head at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris to capture a hip surgery as it happened.

Then the recording was optimized for the Rift, allowing students to look around the operating room. Students can view the surgery through the VR headset, or turn their head to see what the nurses are doing.

Moveo hopes the experiment can train future surgeons and also help experienced doctors learn new techniques by stepping into the virtual shoes of another surgeon.

Rifts in space

NASA has a few interesting ideas about how the Rift could be used by astronauts. The space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) last December released a video showing how it was using a Kinect 2 paired with an Oculus Rift to create a system for maneuvering robots in space. The Kinect was used for body tracking, and the Rift would give the astronaut a first-person view of the robot's environment.

The second concept is to use the Rift as a therapeutic tool for astronauts on long-haul flights to destinations such as Mars. Astronauts on a mission to the red planet would have to endure traveling with others in a small, cramped space.

The Rift would reduce the stress of that environment with a makeshift "holodeck" that would allow astronauts to relax. Imagine, for example, astronauts strapping on a Rift headset, getting up on a treadmill and going for an early morning run in Seattle's Discovery Park, all from a room inside a space shuttle hurtling through space.

PTSD Treatment

The Rift may one day put gamers right in the middle of action games like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty, but it can also return real-life war veterans to the battlefield. Believe it or not, that's a good thing.

Albert "Skip" Rizzo — a psychologist and director for medical virtual reality at the University of Souther California's Institute for Creative Technologies — is using the Oculus Rift to help treat vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. The idea is to immerse veterans in stressful situations similar to what they experienced to help them confront traumatic memories.


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