Last year I received a phone call from Mike, a retired Orange County firefighter. He asked me about my experiences with virtual reality and if this technology might help a 23 yr old quadriplegic named Henry. Without hesitation, I said ‘YES!’ If VR could excite me and all my friends, how much more might it thrill someone basically stuck in bed all day long. I agreed to meet Henry through a Skype video chat, Mike would bring his S6 and hope for decent wifi to facilitate the call. I was a bit nervous as I had never talked to someone paralysed, and was not sure what to say. It turned out Henry had a relaxed demeanor and was easy to chat with. He has a sarcastic sense of humor and a mischevious grin and not one negative thing to say, as a matter of fact, he spoke about being grateful that he could talk, as his roommates had long lost that ability. I could hear breathing machines through my headphones and I was imagining if it was me trapped in that bed.
After awhile I thought to ask a few tech questions, I was not sure about using an Oculus Rift DK2 or Samsung VR Gear as both can require use of your hands. I found out Henry had a busted laptop, little experience with hands-free technology and his portable breathing machine had not worked in ages. He has little support but for a few dedicated people like his Mother and Mike, who visit regularly. I decided that for the time being it would be less complicated to go with a Note 4 and Samsungs mobile headset. He would need some assistance to ‘swipe’ but not having to deal with USB & HDMI cords, headphones and a big PC, I figured this was the best way to go. Raising the funds was surprisingly easy, I just asked a few friends to help and within a couple of days Henrys Note 4 and VR Gear had arrived. I must say I was getting excited to hear back from him, by now we had talked several times and there was something about his positive outlook on life that had a huge impact on me
Finally I get an email with a link to YouTube. My firefighter friend took some video of Henrys first time with virtual reality. As you can see, his reaction was awesome. I was elated but not surprised. I just knew that VR has massive potential to help others. It was a super emotional experience for me and my family as all of us knew how cool VR was and we just knew it was going to impact Henry in profound ways. In Henrys own words ‘VR has changed my life!’ I think that says it all.
A year has passed, Henry is a wizard on the Note 4, using a stylus clenched between his teeth he’s like a woodpecker on that phone! When we message through Facebook, I at times struggle to keep up! Henry has become much more than some guy we got VR Gear for, he is a friend. And the funny thing is, I set out to help Henry but in the end, I think it was Henry who helped me…