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Virtual Reality in real life

As part of my efforts to connect the CSU to promising innovations in Virtual Reality, I recently had the chance to visit the founder of Embodied Labs, Carrie Shaw. She and two of start-up team Ryan Lebar and Thomas Leahy have just relocated to Los Angeles from Chicago, living in a house on the west side of LA and quickly acclimating to the California lifestyle.

Embodied Labs taking a break to enjoy LA
Embodied Labs taking a break to enjoy LA

Embodied Labs was developed to use VR to build empathy by putting a person in the “body” of another person so you can see the world as they do. Carrie was motivated by the personal experience of seeing caretakers for her mother – who has Alzheimer’s Disease – have trouble understanding how she sees the world. Among other problems, her mother has a visual deficit that makes her blind to objects on the left side. Using clear lenses and tape, Carrie developed a simple tool that she found to be effective for helping new caretakers better understand her mother’s needs and to enable them to provide better care.

Carrie modeling her DIY VR
Carrie modeling her DIY VR

Embodied has completed one immersive piece – you can see a 2D version on YouTube but it’s much more powerful and realistic in the 3D VR version which is very well-produced. Embodied has a several more simulations at various places in their production pipeline, and is building an interesting platform with a smooth user experience that has potential to provide experiences in a number of different areas.

One of the questions that comes up over and over again is “does VR really make a difference?” Embodied Labs created an experimental design to measure the impact of a pilot at University of Illinois – Chicago, as described in this whitepaper.  They are currently undertaking additional pilots while they simultaneously develop new materials. They have also developed a standardized equipment list which I thought might be useful in other contexts as well – you can find it here. If  any CSU campuses are interested in their approach or would like to explore the possibility of a pilot, I would be glad to connect you.

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