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Jordan Belamire's story starts in a snowy, medieval fortress shooting arrows at zombies and giant spiders.

The fortress wasn't real, of course; it was a level in a video game called QuiVr. She was actually standing in the living room of her brother-in-law's home in Redwood City. In her hands were two motion-sensing video game controllers and strapped to her head was the HTC Vive — one of the best and first consumer-level virtual reality (VR) headsets available.

A man using the HTC Vive. Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images.


Belamire was completely immersed in this virtual snow-blanketed landscape.

"Never had I experienced virtual reality that felt so real," Belamire wrote of her time playing QuiVr. "I was smitten. I never wanted to leave this world."

VR is a essentially a series of games brought to life by a headset that immerses you in a 3D, 360-degree simulated environment. The headset tracks your head movements so that if you look up in real life, you'll see the simulated sky. Look to your left, and there's a fast approaching enemy. Look to your right, and you see a fellow player, signed in to the game with you.

VR promises to be at least the next big thing in entertainment. At most? An interactive technology as ubiquitous as TV or the internet.

But VR is not without some unexpected problems — and Belamire's experience with the game soon turned sour.

Belamire booted up a multiplayer version of the same game, launching herself back into the same, snowy, virtual world. This time, however, she had other real life players — virtually — beside her.

Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images.

Between waves of attacking zombies, a nearby player began groping Belamire's avatar — grabbing at her chest with a disembodied 3D floating hand.

It was just as weird and creepy as it sounds.

"I must have laughed from the embarrassment and the ridiculousness of the situation," Belamire said. "Women, after all, are supposed to be cool and take any form of sexual harassment with a laugh. But I still told him to stop."

The other player didn't stop. In fact, he chased and followed Belamire, continuing his virtual assault despite her multiple pleas to stop. Frustrated, she had no choice but to rip off her headset and log out of the game.

Belamire left the game wondering if virtual reality was destined to become yet another space where women are chased out by targeted harassment.

Photo by Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images.

She wrote of the experience in a blog post (which has since been deleted) and then, presumably, expected that to be the end of it. After all, tech companies have been notoriously hit or miss when it comes to responding to online harassment.

Then something unexpected happened. Belamire got a response from the game company.

"The first thing I felt was that we had let someone down," wrote Andrew Stanton, a developer for QuiVR. "We should have prevented this in the first place."

Stanton and fellow developer Jonathan Schenker were deeply saddened and disturbed by Belamire's experience in their game but used it as motivation to solve the problem. "No one should be able to treat another player like [Belamire] had been treated again," Stanton said.

They introduced an in-game solution in the form of a superpower. With the push of a button, players were granted the ability to create a personal bubble around their avatar that makes anyone who enters it disappear from view. It's a simple and innovative solution that puts the power directly in the player's hands to control their personal player-space in a virtual world.

"We don’t know if this solution will work perfectly," Stanton wrote. "And it’s certainly not the only solution; like everyone in VR, we’re just learning how to approach these very real problems. "

VR is a young technology, which means now is the time for developers to implement forward-thinking solutions to these inevitable problems.

Virtual reality essentially promises a new plane of reality. One where you can be whoever you want to be and one where, ideally, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and safety.

Mark Zuckerberg has been a big supporter of VR technology and its potential to extend beyond gaming into social interactions. Photo by Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images.

Harassment and bullying are an unfortunately ubiquitous part of the gaming community. Game creators across all platforms are addressing it in different ways. Riot Games, for example, built a "player behavior team" filled with psychology Ph.D.s to analyze, study, and tackle the rampant harassment they found in their online communities.

VR has the potential to be a mainstream entertainment platform that reaches more people than standard video games. The difference is that VR games feel real to those playing — meaning things like virtual sexual harassment feel just like real-world sexual harassment and can cause the same emotional trauma. To that end, solutions are badly needed to protect players like Belamire who had her experience ruined in mere minutes.

Photo by Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images.

The developers of QuiVr plan to make their "personal bubble" technology available to all VR game developers — and Jordan Belamire thanked them for addressing her concerns so quickly and efficiently.

Wherever this whole VR thing goes, it should be a place where everyone can have fun, where no one has to be subjected to sexual harassment or bullying or unwanted attention.

It's a lofty promise, but VR is inherently untied to the laws of reality. Giving players bully-stopping superpowers is simply a matter of writing code. Maybe the future of VR is the future of personal empowerment. Maybe not.

At the very least, you should be able to kill some zombies in peace.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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