Virtual Reality: the Terrors of Poe’s Pit, the Joys of Michelangelo’s David

BY Paul Solman  August 23, 2013 at 10:16 AM EST


Never seen Michelangelo’s David? With a little help from virtual reality, Paul Solman discovers it won’t require a trip to Italy.

Paul Solman: Like it or not, virtual reality , or “VR,” is coming. Soon. And for those who think they’re too old for video games, or too old-school for new technology, think again. We ran one story about VR in July, as well as an interview on this page with Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

But we never shared what it’s like when you’re asked to cross a bottomless pit on a plank of wood or experience Michelangelo’s David from the statue’s point of view. We do so above, in a Making Sen$e Business Desk video exclusive. (The high points come here for the pit and here for the David.)
And here are some of Jeremy Bailenson’s responses to the many who communicated with him after our first story ran, suggesting ways in which to apply VR technology for the highest common purposes, rather than the lowest common denominator.

Jeremy Bailenson: Thank you all for the great feedback in the comments section to our first post, via Twitter and in email. I wanted to share some messages I received from a number of people who provided fascinating ideas about how to apply this technology to other domains.

More than one person emailed to ask about using VR to train for stroke rehabilitation and other brain and spinal injuries. There is great research in this domain by a number of scholars, which you can view here, here, here and here.

Others inquired about actually using this technology in the field, for example a London application to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and a California proposition to reduce plastic bag use. We are working on making this system portable for this very purpose. Recently, we presented this technology at a conference with energy decision makers.

Finally, a number of people suggested that the technology be used for training people how to avoid costly life decisions, such as gang membership. These are great ideas. The industry is moving so fast, and regulations are so lax, I believe the movement to create “prosocial” content will need to be grassroots.


This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions