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.
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?