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Dying grandmother takes one last walk outside with Oculus Rift

Despite attracting a $2 billion buyout by Facebook, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset remains very much a niche product that’s some way off mass mainstream adoption. We occasionally get glimpses of the device’s huge potential though, such as this one from video game artist Priscilla Firstenberg — she used an Oculus Rift development kit to enable her sick grandmother to take a final tour of the yard outside her home.

Roberta Firstenberg was losing her battle with cancer and lacking the strength to go outdoors when her granddaughter contacted Oculus VR asking for a development kit. Despite a long order backlog, the company provided her with a returned loan unit almost immediately. “I pretty much cried at my desk reading [the email],” Priscilla told The Rift Arcade.

Once the Oculus Rift was connected and ready to go, Roberta was able to take a virtual walk around in the outdoors, something she could no longer do physically. Following feedback from YouTube commenters, Priscilla managed to hook up a Google Street View simulator to enable her grandmother to travel even further afield. Four weeks after she first used the Oculus Rift to step outside, Roberta Firstenberg passed away.

“I can’t believe it, I mean you hear about things like that… it’s just like dropping into a mirage, dropping straight down into a bubble of new life. It’s beautiful,” Roberta said after trying out the Oculus Rift for the first time. While the experience wasn’t enough to stop the illness affecting her body, it’s testament to the power of the alternative reality that the Oculus Rift can create that it was able to make some of her final days more enjoyable.

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