5 Virtual Reality Applications for Social Good
Harnessing the true power and potential of Virtual Reality. First to change mindset, and in the future, to change the world.
#1 — Help prisoners prepare for their life back in the real world
Colorado Public Radio News released an article about VR’s role in readying prisoners for their release. At first I find it perplexing, how could VR be of use to people in prison?
Little did I know that there are individuals who have been in prison longer than they have lived in the outside world. This means that a lot of the skills that we think as common or rudimentary, are ones that seem foreign and complex for these individuals.
The VR experience walked through the act of doing laundry, and simulated how people would look and treat these individuals when they get out of prison and into the real world.
#2 — Empower non-profits like Smile Train tell their story, and show the impact of a donation
There are many reasons why people don’t trust charities, and decided not to donate their money to non-profits, especially those whose base operations is outside of the U.S.
Peter Singer in his book, The Life You Can Save, remarked that one of the reason is that individual feels a certain distance between themselves and the cause at hand. With VR, these barriers can be broken. Individuals can enter an immersive experience, in which they live their lives as if they were a child with a cleft lip, treated less just because of a deformity that they were born with and have no capability of changing.
The experience then transitioned into another journey, in which the child was able to live a normal life, because of the donation that the donor had made to help these children. Game changer.
#3— Help those experiencing PTSD, by using VR as a tool for therapy
Bravemind is an initiative that started in USC by Professor Albert “Skip” Rizzo, to help veterans deal with their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by recreating the traumatic experience in Virtual Reality.
A lot of these veterans have had a hard time adjusting to civilian’s life, and Skip wanted to and successfully created a program that allow veterans to face and overcome their past, in a highly adaptable virtual environment. Clinicians can tweak the intensity of a scene by toggling details like smoke, fire, and violence.
As of March 2017, the Bravemind system has already been used by over 100 military bases, hospitals, and other sites. On another note, the USC Institute for Creative Technologies is also home to many other initiatives that delves in Medical Virtual Reality that’s worth checking out!
#4 — Assist rehabilitation processes
Professor Danielle Levac over at Northeastern University heads the university’s ReGame Lab, which seeks to explore how VR-based therapy can improve motor learning, balance, functional mobility and participation in children and adults with neuromotor impairments.
The program is interested in collaborating with game designers and developers, and so, if you’re in Boston and this is something that’s in your alley definitely contact regamevrlab [at] neu.edu.
And last, but definitely not least…
#5 — University of Florida offers a capstone class on VR for the Social Good
My personal, favorite project is by Team “Virtually Awesome” who uses Virtual Reality to have design students navigate their designs from the perspective of someone who uses a wheelchair. It is our default to design things for ourselves, because that’s what we are accustomed to. But there is a difference between having a default and being ignorant — and this is a step in the right direction, allowing designers to make better design considerations for those who are using a wheelchair.
I’m sure there are many more initiatives that individuals and companies are making to harness the power and potential of Virtual Reality to do extraordinary things. Send me over an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s anything you’d like to share!