These drug rehab centers are using VR to catch liars -- and gross out addicts

The system monitors eye movement, body heat and heart rate.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read

China's mandatory drug rehab centers are using VR technology to catch addicts who lie about their drug dependency.

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

Chinese drug rehab centers have come up with a high-tech solution for catching inmates who lie about their addiction -- using VR headsets.

A pilot program in Shanghai is using virtual reality to discover whether addicts still crave drugs, flashing them a series of realistic scenes that test whether they're excited by the prospect of using a banned substance, according to The South China Morning Post. For instance, an addict lingering over a scene of people sharing drugs might indicate he or she is still interested in getting high. 

They also show inmates "revolting images" of other addicts, presumably ones who've been damaged by their addiction, to gross them out -- and the VR headset can tell whether they've actually been watching.

The headset tracks eyeball movement, while other accessories monitor rises in body temperature and heart rate to give staff a sense of whether the addicts are lying on tests.

China requires individuals caught possessing or using drugs to spend two years at a rehab facility though they can be released for good behavior, according to SCMP. The VR system is designed to prevent addicts from faking their way out of the rehab facilities by lying about their drug dependency.

The VR system is already in use at several rehab centers in Shanghai and may expand to other facilities after experts approved it at a convention in April, according to local media. If the results are significant, the government will reportedly standardize the program.

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