Oculus Rift has virtually limitless uses and applications — just ask NASA, which uses the virtual reality headset to control robotic arms, or Trekkies, who can tour the Voyager’s Bridge, or Mark Zuckerberg, who forked over $2 billion to acquire the company. These days, it seems I can’t read a tech publication without stumbling across yet another use for the VR headset, so I’m going to share some of these lesser-known applications, saving the best — chickens –for last.
Oculus Rift is incredibly useful for all kinds of military training exercises, which is why I’m surprised DARPA didn’t buy it, but I’m sure they’ll get their hands on it or something like it in no time. Even the Norwegian Army has begun using the device for soldiers to drive tanks. Wearing Rift allows soldiers to drive the vehicles without having to stick their heads out of the hatch for a better look at what’s down the road. Tank-mounted cameras deliver footage to the driver via the Rift, essentially making the tank “transparent.” This protects soldiers, allowing them to remain inside the vehicle at all times, and it also negates blind spots via clever camera positioning. The Norwegian Army uses software developed by a Norwegian company, Augmenti, which also allows drivers to see other aspects of their landscapes, such as weapons, minefields, and enemies. Testing will continue, especially in the field, but it’s possible such uses for the Rift could be implemented within the next five years.
Another use for the Rift is to entertain your kids at Chuck E. Cheese. Sure, this is still in the wheelhouse of gaming, but when I picture gamers using the Rift, it’s people who can tie their own shoes and eat food that isn’t always doused in ketchup. Chuck E. Cheese is starting a six-week trial-run with Oculus Rift this week. Thankfully, the chain “where a kid can be a kid” isn’t furnishing Rift games or software that allows kids to be something other than kids, or to, say, drive tanks in the army — rather, the Rift will be used with the Ticket Blaster game, where the player in the booth tries to nab falling game tickets. Maybe not the most exciting scenario, but virtual reality is so novel that the scenario probably doesn’t matter much, and no matter what, it’ll be better than the pizza.
Last but not least, an Iowa State University professor who opposes the horrible conditions caged chickens are forced to endure has proposed strapping Oculus Rift onto the birds so they can have that “cage-free” feeling. He even went so far to propose omni-directional treadmills and a “Second Livestock” virtual world in which they could run amok. The Rift would have to be downsized, or chicken-sized, but once it is, chickens wearing it could could do all kinds of things like hunt for food, commune with other chickens, and run around. Essentially, we’re talking about a Matrix for chickens. The project, including a demo of Second Livestock, is being displayed — on humans — at Iowa’s Art and Design Exhibition. The creator doesn’t really expect this project to be implemented; it’s a thought experiment designed to get people to think about how we treat chicken and livestock. Of course, using the Rift, a human could get a pretty good idea what it’s like to be a caged chicken, but something tells me that usage won’t be terribly popular.