VR Could Improve Biker Safety

Jun 24, 2018 | News

If you’ve paid much attention to the expansion of virtual reality technology over the last few years, you’ll know that it’s been spreading out in a number of different ways. Most notably, the basic devices and the games that defined them early on have begun to improve. For instance, late in 2017 we started to see famous gaming franchises like Fallout and Doom showing up in the VR category, demonstrating a clear improvement in game selection and quality. More recently, new VR headsets have gone on sale, improving upon what we can now call the first generation of VR.

We have also seen virtual reality spreading out into different formats and genres of gaming as it has become more ubiquitous and more capable. For example, away from the home console market we’re beginning to hear about VR games showing up as playable experiences at public arcades. And online, VR is being used to enhance otherwise simple types of gaming. One site devoted to mobile casino gaming launched a whole virtual reality section to cover news in an area that’s expected to explode to new heights of popularity via VR.

And away from the world of gaming entirely, we’ve started to see virtual reality put to use in healthcare, in real estate, in travel booking, and in numerous other aspects of day-to-day life. Included in this rapid and broad expansion is application for cyclists.

Until recently, that would simply have referred to the use of VR in conjunction with exercise bikes for unique workout experiences. That is to say, a few different programmers have made headlines by combining existing programs like Google Earth with virtual reality headsets and stationary bikes to simulate cycling experiences for people at home. in theory, you can now access one of these programs and go cycling on any road or route throughout the world – at least visually – in the comfort of your own home.

Now, however, the connection between VR and cycling is growing, and not in a way that’s just for fun. Thanks to Ford Motors, of all companies, there is now an initiative aimed at keeping cyclists safe via virtual reality. The program is called WheelSwap, and its entire purpose is to help cyclists and motorists see the road from the other’s point of view. To be clear, it’s not meant to be used while you’re biking or driving. But through VR, the program gives motorists a very accurate sense of what it’s like out on the road from a cyclist’s point of view, and does the same thing vice versa for cyclists. It’s a simple idea, but the hope is that over time it can deepen the understanding between people on the road, even if they’re driving different types of vehicles.

This is both a good example of VR’s broad utility in the modern world, and a potentially major development for cycling safety. While cyclists can be at fault in plenty of on-road conflicts, they are also at major risk when drivers don’t know how to handle their presence. A program like WheelSwap, as specifically focused as it may be, can do a lot to change this.