Fulfilling Seniors’ Wishes through Immersive Technology



Visiting Europe for the first time, going back to your motherland, swimming with dolphins? What’s on your bucket list? One thing is sure: elders have a pressing need to tick off elements from theirs. Virtual reality can teleport them anywhere in the world, to the place where they were born and haven’t been able to go back to, or to the place where they haven’t been before but always wanted to go. VR GENIE is an initiative which uses virtual reality to fulfill seniors’ last wishes through immersive technology before they pass. 

“Life is your restaurant”, as the Genie said in “Aladdin”, and seniors sure are enjoying the VR menu. Who needs a lamp in 2019 when we have VR headsets?


When seniors put on a headset, they now have the power to go wherever they want in the world: to the place that they always longed to visit but never got the chance to, or to the place where they were born, and haven’t got the chance to return.

With virtual reality, it no longer matters if you are a prince or an orphan living on the street, if you’re in a wheelchair or if you’re an Olympian athlete, whether you are 20, 50 or 90 years old: in VR, we can all climb the highest peaks, fly over the Grand Canyon and explore the depths of the ocean.

VR GENIE is funded by the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s “Age Friendly” Initiative.



“This gave life to my soul” – Rosa, senior Cuban, after having gone back to Cuba after decades of exile

“It felt like I was really there” – Robert, after having gone back to his native Ireland

“This gives me a 2nd chance” – Michael, former painter reconnecting to his art through VR after his stroke

“This was a 10 plus experience” – Leonard, after having gone to Las Vegas for the first time

“I would want everybody to have this experience” – Magali, devout Christian, after having seen Jerusalem

Once we put the virtual reality headset on, we are instantly teleported to a far away land or another time dimension: that’s the power of the technology. Neuroscientists and computer scientists who have researched the transformative power of VR have consistently highlighted “the sense of presence” the technology provides us. VR GENIE allows older adults to feel immensely present to their deepest desires for travel, adventure, joy and curiosity — right here, right now.



Building Trust between Police Officers and At-Risk Youth through the Power of Play and VR


police and youth on the same vr team

VR WITH A COP is an innovative community policing initiative which uses the power of virtual reality to enable officers to reach out to community members more easily. Police officers and at-risk youth get to team up in virtual reality to solve problems, elucidate mysteries, escape from enemies, collect rewards and win together. Through the power of play and immersion, officers can better engage with at-risk youth and get a simple message across: we are on the same team!  


Playing Cooperative VR Games to Build Collaboration Skills

Example of collaborative VR games police and youth play to build cooperation and communication skills

#1: Defuse a Bomb in VR together

One participant wears a VR headset and is alone in a 3D room with a virtual bomb that is ticking. The other participants are outside the VR, cannot see the bomb but have access to the bomb manual. Participants need to cooperate and communicate with great precision while under pressure to solve puzzles and disarm the bomb 

#2: Navigate a VR Maze together

One participant wears a VR headset and is trapped in a 3D maze that is filled with danger zones to avoid and rewards to collect. The other participants are outside the VR, cannot see what the maze looks like from the inside, but have access to the map. Their role is to appropriately guide the other participants in order to escape from danger and navigate the maze.


VR WITH A COP was piloted by Miami PD and Miami Beach PD and the initiative was a great success: 98% satisfaction rate from participants on both sides. “Fun”, “exciting”, “great icebreaker” were some of the verbatims we collected after the workshop. 90% of participants expressed the desire to experience more customized VR experiences pertaining to police-citizen encounters.  


Allowing Law Enforcement Officers and Citizens to Switch Perspectives through Virtual Reality


What would community-police relationships look like in the United States if both parties could trade places thanks to immersive technology? Equality Lab is partnering with Dr. Derek Ham on an innovative community policing program.

A CMPD lieutenant trades places with a citizen through virtual reality in Charlotte, NC.

A CMPD lieutenant trades places with a citizen through virtual reality in Charlotte, NC.

A scene from I AM A MAN, award-winning experience created by Dr. Derek Ham (NCSU)

A scene from I AM A MAN, award-winning experience created by Dr. Derek Ham (NCSU)

DISPATCH (Here Be Dragons)

DISPATCH (Here Be Dragons)


Imagine if a police officer could step into the shoes of an African-American citizen, and experience first-hand what it is like to be African-American and policed in America. Dr. Derek Ham (North Carolina State University) has created a breathtakingly beautiful virtual reality experience that is a true time machine and allows us to travel back in time to live one of the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement: “I AM A MAN” puts us in the shoes of a Memphis Sanitation Worker the strike in 1968 and enables us to experience the last moments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life before he was assassinated: we become a sanitation worker, we pick up trash, go on strike holding the historic “I AM A MAN” sign.

What would happen if police officers across the country could have access to this type of transformative experience to better understand in first-person perspective the intergenerational memory of African-American community members who have inherited from a past of struggles, strikes and fights for equality? Together with Dr. Ham, we are working to bring this program to multiple law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and Florida.

I want police officers to know that what happened to my ancestors, great-grandfathers and mothers happened to me too.
— Dr. Derek Ham


The TRADING PLACES program is a first step to test the potential of a community policing approach that is:

  1. Science-backed. Our workshop is based on peer-reviewed scientific articles in computer science and social neuroscience.

  2. Scalable. The cost of hardware and software is decreasing every year, which makes it easier to access to the technology and leverage it for community policing.

  3. Experiential. The primary step of the workshop is to experience what the other is experiencing, before exchanging insights and impressions.

  4. Reciprocal. In order to build lasting trust and positive relationships between police and community, both parties are involved in the switching of perspectives, and get the chance to trade places.



  1. Gage police and community interest in a VR-driven approach. This workshop is designed as a first introduction to the technology to help officers and community members familiarize themselves with the technology, both hardware and software.

  2. Pilot-test VR’s potential to make a positive contribution to the field of community policing. Virtual reality is an emerging technology and its potential applications to the field of training, law enforcement and criminal justice are promising. This workshop allows to test software and build our growing database on VR, empathy and policing.

  3. Crowdsource custom VR scenarios from workshop participants that we will develop in a later phase of the project. Because our primary goal is to create custom VR experiences for officers and their communities, this workshop allows us to gather feedback from workshop participants as to the stories and particular scenes they would like us to develop and recreate in VR.   Democratic policing is the goal, and we would like to contribute to that goal in the most democratic way possible: by consulting the primary stakeholders and giving them a voice.

If you represent a law enforcement agency or an advocacy group, and would like to bring this transformative experience to your community, please contact us.