Virtual Reality meets Real Life
What makes VR so special is that it lets you step into a new world. You put on the glasses and you immerse yourself in the virtual world. Integrated headphones let you dive deep into a new environment. We can easily lose track of time and forget our real life environment. That is the magic of VR and there is where it’s great potential and opportunity lies. However, what happens when the VR world and real life world collide?
At XR-Training we created a training tool to practice emergency scenarios. How do you best behave in case of an emergency and in this particular scenario in case of a fire? The first step is to report the fire by activating the fire alarm. A siren sounds.
Recently we had the case while presenting our XR-Training tool that an actual fire alarm rang. It took us all a good few seconds to realise that the alarm was real and not coming from the game. We were asked to leave the building and the fire brigade arrived shortly after.
The person that was trying out the experience had no idea what was going on around him. We had to inform him and get him out of the virtual reality. It also took them a good few seconds to realise what was happening and be back fully present in the real world. In the end the fire alarm was a false alarm and we could all proceed with the day, but it showed us how real life and the virtual life collided.
The future looks promising for VR. More and more companies will apply it to their training or integrate it in their workflow. How can we therefore make sure that there is a safety feature in the VR headset to warn people when something is happening in the real life, that requires their attention? We need to plan for the scenario when no one is around who can warn a person.
VR headsets already have a feature warning us about space limitations, the known blue grit tells us when we leave the safe marked space we can walk freely in. But what about emergencies? Should there be an emergency feature automatically integrated, that stops the function in case of a fire alarm for example?
Another aspect is the emotional responsibility. When we ask people to put on the headset we ask them to trust us and go with us on a journey. Some VR experiences can be emotionally challenging; the content might not be easy to experience. We as developers and producers need to make sure that we find a way to bring people back into the real life smoothly, that we guide them not only in the process of putting on the glasses, the tutorial that explains the tool, but also how to transition back into the real world.
Our recent experience with real life meeting virtual showed us that there are more elements to consider when developing successful VR applications.