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Terminally Ill Woman Uses Oculus Rift For One Last Stroll

Priscilla Firstenberg, a 2D and 3D video game artist, moved in with her grandmother, Roberta Firstenberg, to help take care of her. Roberta had just discovered that radiation therapy and chemotherapy were no longer working, and that she only had months to live. Her favorite activity – going outside and working in the garden – was no longer a possibility.

One day when "Pri" was debating with a co-worker about the benefits of Oculus Rift over the new consoles, she decided to contact Oculus VR's support center about obtaining a kit. She spilled the story about her grandmother, a story that went around the entire Support group. Everyone, it seems, wanted to help.

"Unfortunately, we can't send you out a brand new unit as we're still trying to fulfill our backlog queue of existing orders, but, we have just received a few developer loaner samples back in the office," the reply said. "Keeping with the spirit of these specific Rifts, it only makes sense that we loan a working developer Rift to another game dev."

The team jumped on the Internet and saw Pri's website and her artwork. They could see how passionate she was about her work, and read about how passionate she was about her grandmother. There was no way they could turn that passion away. Thus, she received a loaner; the first development kit.

The Rift was on her grandmother's head the night it arrived, playing the Tuscany demo. Roberta's favorite part? Being able to walk up and down on stairs again. "I guess we take a lot of things for granted," Pri told The Rift Arcade.

Later on, Roberta tried the Rift version of Google Street View. "I had told my grandma about it and she told me that once she had seen the Google car driving down the street while she was gardening, so she had waved to it," Pri said. "The next day I went to work and decided to check it out, and for kicks, put in my grandmother's address. I was pretty shocked to see that there was my grandmother, with her little dog, waving at the camera."

Tears came when Roberta noticed how healthy she looked, and how young her dog appeared. After that, she never went back "outside." Meanwhile, her granddaughter collaborated with her artist and game developer friends to create an environment to explore. However, four days into the development, Roberta's cancer suddenly spread, leaving her weak and confused. The project was cancelled.

Roberta passed away just four weeks after the loaner Oculus Rift arrived. The story here is that the Oculus Rift will make a huge impact on our lives, whether we're gamers or not. Roberta was able to walk again, veteran pilots, sitting in assisted homes, can fly again. Anything, it seems, is possible.

"Roberta's story gives hope of something far more profound: of changing lives for the better," writes The Rift Arcade's Tom Rudderham. "We're only just beginning to discover new ways of using virtual reality to explore the world, to aid those suffering from illness and to better the lives of others — and we have far to go — but as Roberta, Pri, and the Oculus team have shown, there's much to be hopeful for."

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Well said.