None of this is really happening, but the experience is almost overwhelming in "virtual Iraq." The Humvee plows along a desert road. The engine rumbles underfoot, and Blackhawk choppers whirl overhead. A sandstorm blows in, and insurgents pop up and start to shoot with sickening blasts that shatter the windshield. Is that the smell of burning rubber?
Those sensations of war are being fed into a special helmet, goggles and earphones. They are conjured by a computerized virtual reality developed in part by gaming engineers and psychologists at USC and being tested, among other places, at the 269-bed Naval Medical Center in San Diego. The goal is to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
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