13 Weird Things You Didn't Know Virtual Reality Was Being Used For

It seems that the number of weird uses for virtual reality is growing by the day. Virtual art, virtual concerts, virtual history, virtual shopping - the list goes on and on. And although most people think of VR as just a fancy new console for video games, there are those who are truly embracing the abilities of this new technology in inventive and completely unexpected ways.

With the power to insert a real person into a virtual world of your own design comes the power to play God. What kind of world do you want to make for them? What experiences should you bestow upon them? Do you want to reanimate a dead historical figure for teaching purposes? Or would you put them into the middle of a war zone, and see if they have what it takes to be a soldier? The possibilities are truly limitless.

Let's take a dive into virtual waters and explore some of the strangest ways VR is being used.

Photo: TriStar Pictures

  • To Simulate The Experience Of Death

    To Simulate The Experience Of Death
    Photo: Dezeen / YouTube

    As death anxiety is common in terminally ill patients, designer Frank Kolkman created a virtual reality device meant to roughly simulate the experience of dying. Based on both testimony regarding near death experiences and the clinical process of dying, Kolkman device incorporates actual video footage of real life surroundings to help those suffering fatal illnesses feel at peace with death. 

    To use the device, users stand in front of a robotic head while cameras play a live video stream that allows user to look around their own surroundings. An automatic hammer helps mimic the sound of a heartbeat, making the experience more physical. A user's face and body is reflected back at them. This is meant to mimic out of body sensations that are a common aspect of near death experiences. 

    Kolkman hopes his invention will ease anxiety for patients near death. He also hopes to start a more direct, open conversation about the topic of death in hospitals. 

  • To Make an Old Rollercoaster Feel Like a New One

    To Make an Old Rollercoaster Feel Like a New One
    Photo: Six Flags

    Got an old rollercoaster that you're bored with, but just can't bring yourself to demolish? Virtual reality has got you covered! As Six Flags Over Texas has done with the Shockwave, riders are given a VR headset that provides an entirely new experience during the ride. In the case of the Shockwave (re-dubbed The New Revolution), the VR playback makes riders feel as though they're piloting jet fighters in an aerial battle with invading space aliens.

  • To Get Your Head Chopped Off

    Ever fantasize about what it would be like to have your head separated from your body by a guillotine? Yeah, me either. Just keep reading anyway.

    A small team has created a VR app that will place the user directly under the imposing edge of the French Revolution's favorite crowd pleaser. While waiting for execution, you can look around and see the crowd's reaction. To complete the experience, someone is tasked with impacting your neck at the time the blade comes down. But they use a non-edged implement. If that's not authentic enough for you, you probably have more important concerns than VR innovations, and should focus on those.

  • To Ease the Pain

    Virtual reality healthcare company DeepStream VR claims to be developing a way to use VR immersion to combat short-term and chronic pain. The applications they've created transport the user to a relaxing, peaceful world where they can interact with friendly creatures. The experience is meant to tap into and maximize the brain's natural abilities to reduce pain.

  • To Give Yourself a Migraine

    Ever wish you could experience the intense pain of a migraine headache at will? Yeah, me either. Keep reading anyway.

    The brilliant minds at Excedrin have created a VR experience that simulates the bright lights, disorienting sound, and general unpleasantness of having a migraine. The purpose is to show non-sufferers what it's like for those who do suffer the affliction. The purpose is NOT, of course, to develop a way to create migraines in more of the population in order to sell more Excedrin. Where do you come up with these ideas??

  • To Experience the Story of Jesus Christ

    If you loved The Passion of the Christ, but feel like you just can't get that real religious experience unless you're standing underneath the cross, blood pooling around your feet, then this VR experience is for you! Autumn Productions and VRWERX have created a 90-minute virtual retelling of the New Testament. With 360-degree video, you'll be able to look all around every scene, including Christ's birth, death, resurrection, and turning water into wine. Sorry, the technology hasn't evolved enough to allow you to imbibe said wine.