July 1st, 2017: The day I experienced virtual reality. As an attorney with extensive experience in telecom & new media, I was first introduced to augmented reality (AR) nearly five years ago. In negotiating Non-Disclosure Agreements relating to this new technology, I understood that AR eyewear and similar devices could alter and/or enhance our visual experience. Interesting concept, right?
When I pre-ordered my Samsung Galaxy S8 phone earlier this year, I was excited to receive as a free gift (and personally experience for the first time) a virtual reality (VR) headset. I was able to preview the device at the Samsung store, experiencing a simulated roller coaster ride. That was kinda cool.
But, when I received my VR headset at home, I lost 3 hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon loading the software and teaching myself how to use the device. I found the headset is not terribly user friendly.
What I found most interesting about the device was the novelty of using it. Like a junkie, I spent hours downloading various apps and testing them out, seeking to replicate the same adrenaline rush I experienced as a first-time user. I tried everything from roller coasters, to animation, to guided meditation, and yet I came away feeling like I had wasted my time trying to explore a virtual world when reality itself was far more satisfying.
Another problem I found is the inability to multitask while wearing the headset. We’re accustomed to multitasking during our entertainment time, but I found doing anything else with the headset on to be VIRTUAL INSANITY! You can’t move around, pending injury from walking into walls and other household obstacles. And, since my depth perception existed only in the VR universe, I found eating and drinking particularly challenging. I literally had no sense of where my mouth was located in this new world. Pass the popcorn, anyone?
The fact that, when you turn your head, the virtual landscape continues as you look around and behind you is also kinda cool, but if the scene is not engaging, being visually immersed in it holds less appeal than experiencing the big, beautiful world out there.
What I don’t think possible is that virtual reality can serve as a substitute for actual experiences, particularly those we share with other people. It is shared experiences that create the most lasting memories.
VR gaming applications may be more engaging and hold a special appeal for gamers, particularly where VR facilitates team interaction. I suspect that entertainment applications will improve over time, so that users control the depth perspective within the VR universe, enabling them to more closely investigate and/or interact with images on display. In this I am hopeful, since I hate to be a Debbie Downer about a technology whose use enhances my bottom line. In the meantime, VR serves as a great conversation starter, a fun party activity, a blog subject, and it’s highly amusing to watch friends and family check it out.