Could a virtual reality (VR) house party app help deter or decrease underage drinking? A team of researchers from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, thinks it can, with their mobile VR app Blurred Minds: Perfect Pour.
Described as an “innovative gamified alcohol education program”, the app takes users into a VR house party (filmed with real actors, not computer generated imagery) where illicit substances are present. Users are forced to make choices about whether or not to engage in substance use, amount of substance use, (almost like a choose-your-own-adventure book), and the interactive experience then shows the consequences of these actions in vivid, 360 degree VR. The app allows educators to challenge students to make serious decisions from the safety of the classroom. Developers reportedly designed the experience with the goal of fostering user engagement with the education process. BlurredMinds uses mobile VR (viewable in a headset with a smartphone, iOS or Android), and will be trialed at several Catholic schools in Queensland, Australia. Researchers at Griffith University hope to study how the app can help change attitudes toward drinking and decrease risky behavior.
Truly engaging VR has the potential to be a powerful, memorable experience. Those hoping to prevent or change behavior with VR want to capitalize on such immersive virtual sessions. This isn’t just in Australia, as I’ve mentioned previously how a drug rehabilitation institute in China is using VR in a similar manner. Additionally, there is a lack of published evidence on this topic, although one particular study that used VR for treating alcohol dependence in Korea is often referenced. As is often the case with any developing field in medicine, further research is needed.