The researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain created a virtual reality death simulator to help ease the fear of death in the terminally ill patients by teaching them how to become disconnected from their physical bodies.
Mel Slater and his team used an Oculus Rift headset on 32 patients. The patients were seated on a chair, wearing the headset, covered in movement trackers and vibrators. The immersive virtual reality was used to visually substitute the real body with a virtual body (VB) leading the patient to believe that the virtual body is their own. The virtual body matches the actual movements made by the test subjects. If a virtual object is dropped on the virtual body, vibration is triggered on the person’s real foot.
The virtual body imitates Real body movements of the patient, and any sensations are replicated through the vibration technology. In a virtual living room, the patients could move their legs and kick balls that were thrown at them. This activity gets the person in sync with their virtual or avatar body. Once that happens, the scene zooms out leaving the virtual body sitting down giving the patient a feeling that they were levitating like a spirit moving away from the physical body.
The participants were asked if they were afraid of death both before and after the virtual reality experience. People believing in the afterlife were more likely to feel their virtual body and less likely to fear death according to the study.
After the experience, the participants completed the ‘Death of Self’ subscale of the Collet-Lester Fear of Death Scale.
Many others have been made but the Death Simulator by Mel Slater is the first of its kind as it is aimed at easing the pain of death instead of giving the viewer a scary experience.