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Are you ready for VR cinema?

Virtual reality cinema

VR headsets may seem like a niche technology, but that’s changing. Samsung has made one, Sony has made one, Google has made one and Facebook bought a company that made one… for two billion dollars. And soon you’ll find them at your local cinema.

I’m all for this. I have a PlayStation VR. It was delivered on Thursday, after seven long months of waiting, watching every video and reading every preview I could lay my hands on. And I love it.

The virtual future

The games are great, but VR’s future is far bigger – apps that let you explore the surface of Mars, or the Himalayas are all on the way. But what about apps that let you watch a concert as its happening or visit an art gallery that’s on another continent?

There’s already an app on my PSVR that lets me watch films. It transports me to an eerily empty cinema where I can’t see my hands; I can still eat popcorn though – thanks proprioception. As fun as it is to be sat at the cinema, the clarity of the screen isn’t as sharp as my TV, so why bother?

There’s no point putting VR headsets in a cinema to watch films. But imagine paying the price of a cinema ticket to watch The Rolling Stones perform live. Sure, you might be able to watch them at home on the TV, but you’ve got a drooling dog on one side and half-eaten microwave pasta on the other. VR has the power to transport you, immerse you – put you right there in the stadium surrounded by thousands of other fans.

The same principal can apply to watching the Bolshoi Ballet, or wandering around the New York Museum of Modern Art – all things you may never get to experience otherwise.

Shared experience

VR doesn’t need to be a solitary experience. IMAX, which is behind the cinema VR idea, is also talking about multi-room. Having several headsets in one room all hooked to the same experience.

The Star Trek Bridge Crew game puts this idea to good use. Everyone takes control of a different member of the crew. You might be the captain or an engineer and you’ve got to tackle situations together whether that’s a Borg attack or an invasion of Tribbles.

Unless you’re a millionaire, having four £350 PS VRs connected to four £250 PS4s at home is unlikely. A cinema may become the only place to experience local cooperative virtual reality play.

IMAX is presenting an affordable way to enjoy high-end VR and that’s exciting. Because, ultimately, people need to try virtual reality to truly appreciate how revolutionary it is.

What would it take to convince you to don a VR headset?


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I am getting a VR headset 🙂 🙂 🙂

I could apply for a free one with my new Samsung phone but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it though.

This is something I’ve been waiting for, for as long as I can remember. In the ’80s I wrote video arcade games for Sinclair (remember them?) and even then VR was being touted. I recall thinking just how immersive it would be, playing games when you could see all around you.

In 2001 I was able to use one of the early VR systems at Walt Disney World in Florida, and the memory of its impact is still clear today. But playing games is only a fraction of what the technology can be used for.

Exploring risky venues, for instance. A virtual stroll around Downtown Harlem or a saunter through parts of Somalia would be possible, or a deep sea dive to otherwise unattainable depths. Flying above the tallest mountains and even venturing into Space would all be possible.

But possibly person-to-person communications across significant distance could be the real winner. Talking to a long-lost friend in the Antipodes (come in, Patrick) and the feeling of being there that would ensue would make this a major attraction.

The current headsets are bulky and all enclosing but we can expect this to be refined rapidly if the technology really takes off. So the future for me, at any rate, is bright and totally 3D.

If we are prepared to watch and enjoy flat 2D images of documentaries, travelogues, nature programmes, on our TVs then how much better to have the VR experience. A bit like moving from silent movies to talkies, B+W to colour, an improvement in the entertainment experience. How much material will become available?

I’m thinking of therapeutic applications for this, to help relieve boredom for those stuck at home/hospital, treat mentally ill patients, rehab prisoners/addicts, etc. Can we eventually tap into the eye/brain of a blind person and get them to see and navigate their own environment?

This would be on top of great entertainment, eg visiting the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara, which I’m now unlikely to visit anytime soon in spite of having wanted to for years, visiting and flying starships Enterprise and Voyager (I’m sure the Star Trek franchise is already making preparations), and sailing on the Bounty before things turned sour. One lifetime not enough for all I want to see and hear like this and never would be able to otherwise.

Interestingly, one of the first and still the best VR sims was for the original ST bridge tour.

Has anyone here tried VR on your smartphones? We have a few cardboard VR viewers that we might be able to mail out to you if you’re interested…

Nice cost-effective way to try it, Patrick. I wouldn’t mind trying one.

If demand exceeds supply, they could be given to the best poets, thought there is no rhyme or reason for this suggestion.


Hi, we’ll get some sent out to you both 🙂

Whats the difference between cardboard VR head sets and the Samsung VR Headset for £65ish – do you really need to spend lots of cash to have a good time?

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