Remember the first time you stepped into a planetarium? Dark and quiet, comfortable seats and what appeared to be an endless sky above you. Everywhere you turn your head is a different view and as you walk around the room you see the different views from different angles. You walked in while it was daylight and without a sunset or the passing of any time you are immersed in a light pollution free night time experience. You didn’t have to drive or hike, but you’re in this completely different realm of the world.
Putting on the Samsung Gear VR goggles is a similar experience. I tend to be a bit jaded about new technology and how much marketing and hype surrounds it, and approach new gadgets and ideas with low expectations. However, just the menu – the menu where you choose what to see, blew me away, and these aren’t even the expensive VR goggles.
All of the sudden I’m flying above Paris, hovering next to the towers in Red Square people watching while the lights of Moscow slowly come up and the scene moves into evening. I’m watching batting practice for the LA Dodgers and sitting on the mound during the first pitch. I’m hovering over the towers and equipment necessary to launch an enormous rocket – and then I watched it liftoff.
I’m not watching a video in the normal sense of course. Each time a new video plays I have to turn my head and my body in all kinds of directions so I can get a sense of where I am. Just like when you walk into a planetarium, you want to get your bearings. So its not a “big screen” in front of my face like at a 3dIMAX or something. I am literally surrounded by video as if I was there. Then I put in headphones…
Even 360 degree still photos are a trip. I had to pause the “carousel” because each time a new photo was loaded there wasn’t nearly enough time for me to look around and get a sense of where I was in relation to the space I was virtually within. Explored the pyramids and ancient Egyptian tombs. Looking at the floor and ceiling of these giant tombs (like the size of a gymnasium) wasn’t just interesting, it was transformative.
I didn’t get queasy or nauseous. I’d say the most I ever felt was confusion or desperation in seeing where I was. Imagine you’re going to visit a famous place but you never walk into the area or to the room. So I had no context for where I was when the new video or photo loaded – but this all added to the mystery and intrigue of where I “was”.
Upon removing the VR goggles and returning to reality, I felt a sense of desperation and a longing to go back. I’m willing to admit this sense of euphoria in using the VR goggles for the first time was because it was the first time and I’ll likely not experience the same joy as I continue to use them. While this might make them gimmicky and a flash in the pan, I can see how using it as a way to transform your reality in an attempt to solve problems or create things is definitely in its future. It’s by no means a content creation device just yet, but it’s easy to see it becoming one with the right set of problems to solve.