Bandai Namco Has A VR Installation To Help People Battle Their Worst Fears

Anyone interested in VR for more than just the headsets might really like this news. Bandai Namco is opening up a research facility that doubles as a VR installation to help people overcome their fears. Using the HTC Vive and various 3D spatial props, the VR tests will push the limits on how people approach and react to fear.

Eurogamer spotted the new promotional video from Bandai Namco that showcases how they're helping people overcome fear, while also taking down notes and studying the effects of both fear itself and reactive experiences in virtual reality. You can check out the promo video below.

It's labeled as “VR Zone Project I Can”. The installation will open up on April 15th later this month and will stay open up until October, later this year.

The video demonstration above focuses on one of the six different VR tests that Bandai Namco will have researchers utilize and observe over the time period while the installation is open. The one fear test in the promo video centers around saving a small kitten out on a plank. The short VR demo is aimed at replicating the realism of being on a skyscraper and walking on a small plank.

In real life there's an actual cat statue that users can pick up, and they also walk across a thin plank just like in the VR demo to give them a sense of placement and height.

You might be wondering why they're using the HTC Vive and not the Oculus Rift, and that's because the Vive is more versatile for 3D play-space recognition. It uses the light bases placed around the room to create an actual play space, so users can move around and perform actions with the necessary controllers as opposed to just statically looking around with the headset on.

One thing that was new that I haven't seen before are the foot tracking devices. In the video above, we see that the participants wear special shoes with sensors inside that the Vive and the bases will pick up and read movements from. It's a little bit like the motion capture sensors that they use for movies, television and video games.

Combining the shoes with the glove sensors and the VR helmet gives the user the actual impression that they can move and interact with the 3D virtual world. Hence, Bandai Namco was able to use all of these advanced features of the HTC Vive to make the participants actually feel as if they were walking on a plank trying to rescue a little kitten.

It would have seemed like these kind of research projects and VR exercises would have been done way before the headsets actually released. Measuring fear, heart-rates, and anxiety while using a VR headset seems like the kind of research that should have been thoroughly conducted at least a year before the release of the actual headsets.

There have been some worries about the very thing that Bandai Namco is just now testing: that VR simulations that induce overwhelming amounts of fear could be life-threatening for some users.

Again, research and testing has been minimal thus far regarding this kind of subject matter when it comes to VR HMDs, but it's cool to see that Bandai Namco is leading the charge in this area.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.