Now this IS interesting. The University of Houston has what they call "The University of Houston (UH) Graduate College of Social Work's Virtual Reality Clinical Research Lab". Quite a mouthful, but a very exciting premise.
Using top grade virtual reality equipment, this VR lab is being used as a therapeutic treatment for addictions and behavior change. For example, alcoholics can be guided by therapists to change undesirable behaviors by having them experience virtual recreations of bars and difficult environments. They are also developing other virtual experiences and scenarios for other types of drug addiction (e.g. heroin).
The latest VR frontier up for grabs is the Metaverse. The latest entrant is a partnership between Next Galaxy Group and Eon Reality. Eon Reality is best known for building virtual reality CAVEs for universities and industrial use. They have jointly announced plans to build a virtual reality Metaverse via CEEK; a VR platform that lets you view and participate with all kinds of entertainment while wearing products like the Oculus Rift.
It sounds like a hokey premise; that VR can somehow instil behavioral changes in us to do great things for our environment - but what if our VR actions really do subconsciously influence our real life behavior?
Stanford University is starting to find the answers in their tree cutting study. Users go through the action of standing in a virtual reality forest with a mix of haptics and a VR display with surround audio. The user cuts down a tree and feels every chainsaw rumble as they do it. The result? According to Stanford, that VR experience will lead to a 20% drop in paper consumption and the subject will seek out recycled goods for the foreseeable future. In contrast, participants that just watch a video and read articles about deforestation will have a similar result, but the positive effect of taking on a more environmentally friendly path won't last more than a week.