Shortening the Distance Between Family and Friends With Oculus Go

The inexpensive VR headset is the latest way to help connect with loved ones.

Almost 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, with even higher divorce rates in Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Belgium. And when children are involved, it can be even more difficult and trying for everyone.

Custody agreements split the children’s visitation schedule between both parents, where kids find themselves going back and forth from one parent’s house to the other. This bouncing around means kids won’t see the other parent for days or even months. Staying in touch during the non-visitation days means phone calls, text messages, and video chats. But it’s never the same as being in a room together.

I know this because I’m in the situation myself, and I have personally experienced the frustrations of not seeing my daughter on the weeks she is with her mother.

When Oculus Go hit shelves in May with a starting price of $199, it not only brought in a new era of affordable VR, but also launched a fresh way for people to spend time together – all through an app called Oculus Rooms. You can think of the apps as as your own personal VR clubhouse that you can personalize with your own photos, invite family and friends over to watch movies, or get into an intense game of Boggle, where losers can’t throw the board across the room.

I personally saw the potential of what Oculus Go and Oculus Rooms could do for families in a custody agreement situation, letting you spend time together when you’re can’t physically be together.

For my own situation, it meant that my daughter and I were able to meet up and talk, discuss homework, hear all the gossip and drama 6th graders go through. We were virtually in the same room, together.

I’ll admit that it’s not the same as real-world interactions, but it also isn’t a phone call or text message. It’s something in-between the two, and for parents, finding any way to connect with your children is golden.

The potential of Oculus Go doesn’t stop there either.  Charles Statman was in a serious motorcycle accident on May 16th that left him with a broken tibia plateau and all four of his knee ligaments torn. Unfortunately for Statman, the injuries required multiple surgeries along with a lengthy recovery that will keep him in bed until December.

To help keep Statman in good spirits, a friend purchased him an Oculus Go, and then tweeted out a photo urging people to connect with him through the device and hangout while he recovers from his injuries. Speaking with him over email, Statman talked about how the Go gives him “the ability to chat with someone after visiting hours are over – even their avatar – has an amazing healing effect,” adding, “I am in a room, talking with friends. My mind is at peace, healing, instead of getting depressed from not being home.”

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re in the hospital for a long stay, then you know that occupational therapy (OT), and physical therapy (PT) can eat up a couple of hours during the day, leaving the remaining hours spent in bed with the occasional visitor, lots of sleeping, and a lot of time staring at the ceiling. “VR lets you get out of there for hours and lets you have as much of a ‘normal’ life as can,” said Statman.

VR and headsets like Oculus Go are bringing us together, and sometimes helping us find love. For one California couple, the Oculus Go, along with VR apps such as AltspaceVR and Rec Room, have become a way for them to be together when they’re far apart. Andria Tay and Mike Jones completely rely on VR to stay connected during the week when they are busy at work, until they can see each other on the weekends.

For Jones, VR isn’t new to him. He was an early developer for the Oculus Rift DK1 (the first Oculus headset), an employee of Google, and then started his own company based out of Santa Clara, CA called, BrainFizz VR, a company that looks to change the world of dating, while Tay works out of San Francisco as a marketing executive. Though the distance between the two of them is just over an hour, their busy work week kept them from being together.

Jones came up with the idea of using an Oculus Go  as a way to date and be together — she was all for it.

“It’s more than just Google hangouts or texting,” said Jones. “VR allows us to have a sense of closeness despite the geographical differences.”

Out of all the platforms available, Tay said that she prefers Rec Room the most because of the activities that the two of them can do.  While Jones said he enjoys doing anything from watching movies, TV, and games.

The two of them couldn’t be together on Valentines Day last year, so they spent the day together in Rec Room throwing snowballs at each other, battling aliens, launching cannons, and taking selfies. Honestly, that sounds like a really awesome Valentines Day.

Jones’s greatest expectation is that VR allows us to be able to feel the presents of someone next to you and hearing them breath.

I don’t think that’s much to ask for, and if Oculus Go or any type of virtual environment like AltspaceVR or Rec Room can bring us together, I’m all for it.

Image Credit: VRScout / Mike Jones

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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