No matter how much we may hate waiting on VR, there’s at least one reason to be grateful it’s taken so long: old driver’s ed classes would almost certainly have been unable to handle this technology responsibly.
Consider, for example, Toyota’s “TeenDrive365” Oculus Rift experience. Launched at the Detroit Auto Show today, it’s an immersive simulation of what distracted driving feels like. You get into a real (but stationary) car, put on a head-mounted display, and steer your way down a virtual highway. Slowly, irritations build up: loud music, ringing phones, your friend trying to make you read a text message. Look away, and you crash.
Driving simulators are increasingly common, and like flight sims before them, they can train people to make split-second decisions without the heavy consequences of failure. Usually, this involves flat screens that simulate car windows.
The Rift’s head tracking makes it an inspired choice here, since Toyota can actually tell if you’re not paying attention to the road. The immersion reduces distractions from the outside and can create a sense of urgency — even, in a crash, fear.
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