New VR Game Shows the Dangerous Consequences of Skipping the Flu Shot

The interactive game has actually been successful in influencing people's intention to get the flu shot.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In a desperate attempt to get people to finally take their flu shots, a researcher is trying a new Virtual Reality (VR) game, as reported by Fast CompanyGlen Nowak, director of the University of Georgia’s Grady College Center for Health and Risk Communication and the principal investigator on this new VR research, believes that what impedes flu shot adoption is a false notion that the condition is easily treatable.


The most vulnerable

However, for the most vulnerable amongst us, such as children, the elderly and those with chronic conditions, it simply is not. Now, Nowak hopes to use VR to show people how their refusal to take a flu shot affects those members of the population.

Nowak told Fast Company “that one of the benefits of virtual reality is it can actually show people, much better than their imagination could, how things could or may play out.”  His team of researchers conducted a study on a group of 18- to 49-year-olds who avoided the flu shot.

They compared the effect of a five-minute virtual reality experience where viewers were exposed to the flu and shown what it was like to be infected and what it was like to infect others to a similar five-minute non-interactive video and a digital pamphlet that used text and stills from the video. They found that those who watched the VR video came out a lot more determined to get the flu shot.

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“One possibility was that all three of those approaches would perform equally well. If that had been the case, that could have been really good news,” Nowak told Fast Company. Sadly, that was not the case.

Sense of presence

“It turned out that neither the tablet nor the video was able to create this sense of presence, this sense of you feel like you’re involved in the story,” he says. “The only modality that did that was virtual reality.”

Although it's good news for the VR game, it is bad news for flu shot promotion because getting people to watch a VR movie is significantly harder than say a pamphlet or a non-interactive video. Still, at least there is an option out there that's relatively good at getting people to get their flu shots!

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