There has already been some attempts to utilise virtual reality (VR) technology for social good. In particular, various companies, government bodies and health authorities have been looking at using VR to change behaviour. Oculus is now funding these aims with the Play4REAL lab.
One of the first beneficiaries of this funding is Preview Labs Inc, a company primarily known for its work in the rapid prototyping area. Preview Labs has been chosen by Yale’s Center for Health & Learning Games to create a VR experience to help teenagers make decisions around e-cigarettes.
Preview Labs are working to create an educational VR title called smokeSCREEN VR, a prototype title that will form part of a larger research study that is being funded by Oculus. Using theories of behaviour change, the aim is to immerse young people in peer pressure scenarios relating to the use of e-cigarettes and help them discover the best ways to respond.
“With VR, as a player, you get much more of a point-of-view experience. You actually feel like you’re in the environment,” said the new lab’s director, research scientist Kimberly Hieftje, in a press release. “We are asking ourselves what we can do to use VR to enhance the feeling of social pressure in a scenario involving vaping, or e-cigarette use. Could we change the volume of the background noise? Could we simulate your heart pounding?”
“Bringing difficult social situations to life in a playable virtual reality game, and making them feel natural, will be a unique challenge,” said Bernard Francois, founder of PreviewLabs. “We’re excited to work with Yale’s researchers on this Oculus project.”
The prototype software will also use ‘mixed reality capture’ by utilising a green screen and a Stereolabs ZED camera, replacing the green screen with the VR background. This enables the developers to record and document the progress of the app and user response to it.
Preview Labs are hoping to have a demo of smokeSCREEN VR available on the Oculus Store soon.
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