Today was hands down, one of most inspirational days I've had in a while.  Why?  Meet Oculus Rift.  What it is?  The first commercially available virtual reality (VR) headset, and it's awesome!  Now, I know what you're thinking… really, inspirational?  Yes.  Inspirational.  Let me explain.

   The obvious application for a VR headset is for gaming and there is no doubt, it creates a pretty awesome gaming experience.  Lots of companies are clammoring to get support for their games in Oculus Rift, and Sony is rumored to be working on their own VR headset for their popular PlayStation gaming console.  However the gaming application, while really cool, isn't what I found so inspirational… it was all the OTHER applications that are available, or on the horizon.  The University of Tennessee here in Knoxville uses the headsets in their Architecture Department to do design studies and walk throughs.  Have a good building idea and want to see it in person before the first shovel pierces the ground?  No problem!  Build your design, to scale even, inside a virtual world and do a literal walk-through!  Pretty amazing stuff.  There is actually a proposed development here in Knoxville right now that is available in the popular virtual reality online community, Second Life.

   Even beyond this, as I was learning about the device at the University, one of the gentlemen I was working with shared his personal story with me.  David is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease and the comment he made was that you'll never get someone with Parkinson's to show up to a support group meeting.  Frankly, no one really wants to consider what they'll look like once the disease progresses substantially.  With virtual reality though, sufferers of the disease can affectively shed their earthly bodies and become their avatars for the purpose of meeting together and sharing, and even expressing themselves artistically.  WOW.  I was expecting that when I woke up this morning!  David told me that there is a support group that meets regularly  in Second Life, and that he himself has benefited greatly from the community.  After researching further, I found some interesting articles of other people with Parkinson's finding some relief through virtual reality living.  Fascinating stuff!

–Dan Thompson


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