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A Dying Grandmother Takes One Last Stroll With the Help of This Incredible Invention

April 23, 2014
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A Dying Grandmother Takes One Last Stroll With the Help of This Incredible Invention
The Oculus Rift team donates a 3D headset to Priscilla Firstenberg's cancer-stricken grandmother, Roberta, to give her a chance to walk outside. Screengrab via YouTube
Virtual reality has given a terminally ill woman the chance to go outside again.

Most people think of virtual reality as video games. But as the touching video below shows, virtual reality can also be a useful tool to help improve the quality of someone’s life.

As The Rift Arcade reports, video game artist Priscilla Firstenberg sent a note to Oculus VR, the Irvine, California-based developers behind the Oculus Rift, to help fulfill her terminally ill grandmother’s wish to go outside again. A virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift is the company’s first product and is currently in development after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

For Priscilla’s cancer-stricken grandmother, Roberta, the 3D headset gave her the chance to stroll along a sunny Tuscan village right from her own home. Her reactions are nothing short of amazing—she describes touching butterflies, hearing the sounds of the beach and seagulls, and looking at all the beautiful colors.

“It’s just like dropping into a mirage, dropping straight down into a bubble of new life. It’s beautiful,” she says in the video.

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But it was the simple action of walking up the stairs that Roberta found the most awe-inspiring. “Her favorite part was just being able to walk up and down the stairs again of the villa in the Tuscany demo,” Priscilla told The Rift Arcade. “I guess we take a lot of things for granted.”

Using the Oculus Rift’s version of Google Street View, Roberta was even able to take a virtual stroll and see an old snap of herself standing with her beloved pet dog.

Unfortunately, about four weeks after her first use of the Oculus, Roberta’s condition took a turn for the worse and she passed away. However, Roberta’s story is a reminder of the incredible possibilities of virtual reality, especially beyond entertainment purposes and video gaming.

As she says in the video, virtual reality can be a real form of therapy: “You can be in pain like I have pain but somehow when you see a blue butterfly reach out to kiss you…it makes you realize that we all are part of this world and this world is very precious to us.”

[ph]

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