How the Oculus Rift lets researchers simulate ATV crashes

Oculus is still mostly positioning the Rift virtual reality headset as a gaming device, while its parent company Facebook promotes the gadget as a tool for futuristic communication. But VR has tons of other applications, and a team at the University of Iowa is doing something pretty interesting and unique with the technology.

The group is using an Oculus Rift to simulate deadly ATV crashes in an effort to help people avoid them in the future, Digital Trends reports. The engineers also use a motion-sensing suit and a moving platform with an actual ATV on it. The full setup allows them to test out different ways riding the vehicle can go wrong, which includes people getting ejected or crushed underneath if it rolls over.

“All of these are issues we can now explore and because this is a simulation we don’t have to worry so much about potential injuries,” Charles Jennissen, a professor at UI’s Carver College of Medicine told Digital Trends. “If a similar experiment was to be carried out in a field environment it would be virtually impossible to do.”

It sounds like a lot of fun, but the group’s research may also save lives. Jennissen notes that ATV-related deaths have actually been on the rise and hopefully this work can help reverse that trend thanks to the Oculus Rift.

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