Virtual Viaggio: Italian Is First To Wear VR Headset For A Month

A programmer in Turin decided to enter into a digitally-enhanced universe of his own creation — for an entire month — and lived to tell to the tale.

VR could change mental illness treatment
Enea LeFons calls himself a “VR architect”
Camilla Cupelli

TURIN — Enea LeFons calls himself a virtual reality (VR) "architect," halfway between a designer and a programmer. He's also a serious enthusiast, to the point that he's become the first person to wear a VR headset for an entire month. Talk about an altered state.

For 30 long days, LeFons, a resident of Turin in northern Italy, immersed himself in a VR universe he created on his HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset produced by the Taiwanese tech company HTC. He spent the time virtually designing furniture, writing songs to be played in virtual music clubs. But he also meditated, slept, and ate in his ad-hoc virtual world. HTC backed the project, providing LeFons with cutting-edge tools and a team of programmers working from China.

"In their everyday lives, nearly all coders work for large businesses and they write code alone and isolate themselves," says LeFons. "We want to promote a collaborative project, where programmers from all over the world can participate."

Before LeFons, no one had attempted this kind of long-term virtual immersion experience, though he does recall a conversation in 2016 with Alvin Graylin, head of HTC's Vive division. Graylin predicted that someone would spend a month in VR by 2017. "He was only off by a year," says LeFons.

The experiment took place in the living room of a house in Turin, furnished in a vintage style that matched the one in the VR world. Starting in early March, LeFons spent more than 10 hours a day with the VR headset. As time went on, more and more coders from around the world connected to collaborate on the project. They began to populate his sparse virtual world, helping him fix issues and actively participating in its creation.

"In this field, people don't often share their technological advances with others," says the programmer. "But this project has an open source code available to anyone on the web, and we challenge programmers to help us build new things and solve problems."

The entire room was mapped in 3D and faithfully reproduced.

The external connections are all controlled from the living room where the project is based. The entire room was mapped in 3D and faithfully reproduced inside the VR world where LeFons spent most of his time. This allowed him to move around the room without having to worry about running into any furniture.

All the objects were enhanced in VR, however. Tapping the globe, for example, opened an interactive data set with continents changing size and shape based on the data selected. One corner could even be transformed into a nightclub, and the large mirror in the center gave access to more VR worlds beyond the confines of the room.

"We aim for a situation where other people can recreate what we did here and enable developers everywhere to join in and participate," says Graylin. "VR technology will become essential in many parts of life, so one team can't hope to solve all the problems that will arise. But we hope this project will blaze the trail."

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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