Controversial VR project gives people chance to ‘experience death’

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/1 19:08:39

A participant experiences death through VR glasses at a Babaoshan Cemetery public open event on March 22. Babaoshan is the first cemetery in China to use VR technology in the funeral industry. Photo: IC


Babaoshan Cemetery in Beijing city has caused controversy after it recently launched a virtual reality (VR) project that allows participants to experience death.

While some people expressed curiosity about the project, others were less comfortable with the idea.

An employee from the cemetery defended the move, saying that experiencing death could teach people to better cherish their lives.

Hero's journey

According to The Beijing News, Babaoshan Cemetery in west Beijing gave VR glasses to visitors so that they could "experience death" during its third public open day on March 22.

Participants were able to experience "stepping from life to death" from the point of view of the dead person.

There were two different stories that visitors could experience in the opening day.

In the first, the participant is the "hero" who is working in an office when suddenly everything becomes dark, according to the Legal Evening News. When he wakes up, he finds himself lying in hospital as his family talks about his illness with doctors.

Suddenly the alarm rings and the hero has passed away - a virtual "soul" then separates from the body and the hero begins to look back at various moments of his life.

The other VR experience shows work procedures at Babaoshan, which is an efficient way of letting people know about the service items and environment at the cemetery. Babaoshan is the first cemetery in China to use VR technology in the funeral industry.

Similar VR glasses showing how your own funeral takes place have previously been used in Japan.

Babaoshan Cemetery, built in 1958, is the final resting place of famous figures such as general Zhu De and naturalized Chinese journalist Israel Epstein. The cemetery not only provides services to tens of thousands of the capital's residents each year, but is also responsible for holding the funeral services for deceased leaders of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government, The Beijing News said.

Novelty seeking

While defenders praise the idea of using VR glasses to experience death, it is not without controversy.

"I feel the VR experience is just a novelty. I can't see the meaning in feeling what it's like to be cremated or put in a coffin," Ma Tina, a resident of East China's Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times.

"It's weird and I'm not interested in trying this," said a Beijing resident surnamed Zhang.

Others were more supportive of the idea."I really want to try! It could teach people to treasure their lives," another Beijing resident surnamed Liu said.

"Convicted criminals should all try this in order to better understand the meaning of life," one Sina Weibo user wrote.

A Babaoshan employee said that people could use this "life to death experience" to better cherish their lives and what they have.

The open days could clear up people's misunderstanding of the funeral industry.

"This year, we're focusing on public experiences and getting people involved," an employee of the cemetery was quoted by The Beijing Times as saying. Apart from the VR experience, the cemetery also opened its crematorium to the public for the first time.

"Cremation is not a simple thing. The whole process has eight steps and requires skill," Wei Tong, an employee, said.

Wei said that the cemetery is sometimes open to groups of visitors from the public to give people a proper understanding of death, the funeral industry and the value of life.

Wider uses

In China, VR technology has also been applied in a variety of other areas.

A witness to a homicide used a VR device to testify in a Beijing court, the Legal Evening News reported on March 1.

Also, the Rehabilitation Management Bureau of East China's Zhejiang Province announced that it has tested VR treatment on drug addicts over 1,000 times, news portal reported in August 2017. The bureau said the results have been encouraging, as the VR treatment has been "largely effective" in treating 98.1 percent of medium-level methamphetamine addicts, and 67.3 percent of severe methamphetamine addicts showed some improvement.

Global Times

Newspaper headline: Live & Let Die


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