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Oculus Rift VR being used for tsunami disaster training in Japan

A Japanese university is hoping to prepare the country's citizens for what they could be in for if another huge earthquake hits.

Photo by Screenshot by Daniel Van Boom/CNET

On March 11 2011, Japan was hit with one of the most devastating tsunamis the island nation has ever experienced. Now, five years later, the Aichi University of Technology is utilising virtual reality to prepare its populace for future catastrophic natural disasters.

The VR simulation is powered by the Facebook-backed Oculus Rift headset and puts the user behind the wheel of a car in a city that's just been ravaged by a tsunami. To make an authentic replication of a disaster situation, the program's creators analysed video footage taken from retrieved car-mounted cameras during the 2011 calamity and also interviewed surviving victims.

Wave movements and collision predictions were programmed into the VR experience, which takes place in three different locations: Tokyo's Asakusa distric, Minami ward in Nagoya and Kokura-Kita ward in Kita-Kyushu. You can get a taste of the experience in these demo clips.

While the tsunami that struck Japan may have affected the northern part of the country, both the general population and the government worry that a second, more southern and more severe earthquake may be an inevitability. This simulation hopes to give those living in the south a better sense of what to expect if a disastrous occasion were to arise.

It's the latest example of what services virtual technology can provide. This year is looking to be big for the platform, with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony Playstation VR headsets all scheduled to hit the market.

The project is expected to be displayed on March 13 at a disaster preparedness and traffic safety event at Morikoro Park, also based in Aichi.

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