Japanese Earthquakes Are Terrifying, Even In VR

Japanese Earthquakes Are Terrifying, Even In VR
Above is the virtual aftermath of an earthquake in Japan. (Screenshot: Prof.Tomoki Itamiya’s Laboratory/YouTube)

Earthquakes are a part of life in Japan. And they have been for thousands of years. But that doesn’t mean you get used to them, or that they don’t remain truly terrifying.

In Japan, Professor Tomoki Itamiya of Aichi University of Technology has been specializing in computer modelling to simulate disasters in VR and, in turn, hopefully help prevent them. One of the measures demonstrated is that furniture, especially bookshelves, need to be secured, so they do not fall down. I learned this the hard way, but thankfully, no one in my family was hurt.

In the clips below, Professor Itamiya uses the Japan Meteorological Agency’s data from the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. In April of that year, Kumamoto was hit was a series of devastating earthquakes that reached a magnitude of 7.0. The 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes left 273 people dead and another 2,809 injured. Over 44,000 thousand people were evacuated. The damage was costly and extensive, including to landmarks like Kumamoto Castle.

Professor Itamiya’s VR clips show just how terrifying that experience was — and, once again, underscore the importance for those in earthquake prone regions to secure their furniture.

The above clip shows that even once bookshelves are secured, the books can still fly around the room — which is certainly better than the other options. The ones below show that both a kitchen and a classroom can be dangerous places during earthquakes.

And here is a model created with the data set for the 2018 Osaka Earthquake, which I experienced first hand.

Thankfully, my home was not damaged, however those of friends and family were. That earthquake, while not as powerful as the Kumamoto quakes two years earlier, left 4 dead, 15 with series injuries, and another 419 people with minor ones.

For more VR earthquake simulations, check out the YouTube channel for Professor Itamiya’s lab.

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