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Oculus Rift helps terminally ill woman take one last stroll in the sun

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
April 18, 2014
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A terminally ill woman has reminded us of the limitless potential for devices like the Oculus Rift beyond just gaming and entertainment. After Roberta Firstenberg's cancer treatments failed last year, she was told she had just a few months to live. That prompted her game artist granddaughter Priscilla ("Pri") to send a moving note to the Oculus Rift support team, who quickly decided to send a dev unit. Using the 3D headset, Roberta was able to experience mobility again with the Tuscany Villa demo, complete with virtual trees, stairs and butterflies. She was even able to see her younger self and a beloved, deceased pet via a fortuitous Google Street View snap -- which inspired another idea.

After seeing Street View, Roberta compiled a list of spots she wanted to visit virtually, and Pri hatched a more ambitious plan for a VR world complete with forests, fairies and waterfalls. Unfortunately, her grandmother's condition took a serious turn shortly after that, and she died about four weeks later. To preserve her memory, Priscilla created a video documenting her grandmother's early experiences using the device (after the break). It's a reminder that while such devices can entertain us, they could mean a whole lot more to those who can't get around much anymore.

[Image credit: Priscilla Firstenberg]

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