/ Technology

Would you give VR a go?


I’ve worked in technology for over 20 years, so I’ve had a front-row seat for some pretty exciting new developments. Until recently, it’d be fair to say virtual reality wasn’t one of them.

We’ve seen virtual reality (VR) try and fail a few times before. Constrained by the limits of the technology of the time, a handful of efforts from the likes of Sega, Atari and Nintendo in the 1990s were swiftly confined to the tech graveyard. Their failure effectively condemned VR to over a decade of desertion.

It’s been almost 20 years since these initial efforts to approach something verging on fulfilling our sci-fi inspired dreams – but finally, it seems safe to say that VR has arrived.

My virtual world

My first experience was with Samsung’s Gear VR, which I picked up last year for just shy of £70 – although it’s now available for around half the price. Getting started is as easy as installing a few apps, so in less than 10 minutes, I was ready to dive right in.

First up, I found myself in a lobby of sorts – the kind of room you’d expect to see at a luxury hotel. Filled with comfortable-looking leather recliners, a giant fish tank, and some jaw-dropping ocean views, I spent the first few minutes looking around and marvelling at the fact that it genuinely feels like you’re there.

In front of me, like a series of floating flatscreen TVs, were my options. Should I play a game, open a virtual photo, browse the video gallery or watch a film on the 360 cinema? It was difficult to know where to start, so I thought I’d ease myself in with some photos.

By tapping the touchpad on the headset, I was soon browsing a gallery of locations from around the world. A couple of taps later I emerged on a luxurious palm-tree-laden beach in the Maldives and I could almost feel the sun on my face. Looking down, it felt strange not to see my hands and feet where I expected them to be.

I spent a good few minutes taking in my surroundings, but if I’d been so inclined, I could have put some music on, rustled up a cocktail and stayed for a lot longer.

Dipping into video content for other destinations, I took a swim with some sharks, nearly jumped out of my seat on an African safari when I turned around to see an elephant just inches from my face, and took a dirt-bike ride in the Canadian Rockies.

And as with the virtual photos, there’s a whole ton of content here – and it’s free, immersive (headphones are highly recommended to get the full effect) and genuinely exciting to experience.

The future

But this is just the start. There’s far more you can do with VR right now, and amazing potential for future development.

After this first experience, I’ve dipped in and out of VR when I get some free time, and have already downloaded a fair few games and experience-oriented content from the likes of Sky and the BBC. Much of it is free, but what you do pay for usually only costs a few pounds, and there are often discounts to be found.

I’ll be honest – the novelty of experiencing VR for the first time was a big reason why it was so immediately engaging, and you do get used to these virtual worlds. But since the sheer range of content means there’s always something new to try, it’ll be a long time before I get bored.


What are your own experiences with VR? Do you think it has potential for the future?


We have a PS4VR system with a PS4Pro on which to run it. I have to say it’s quite incredible and with Netflix, Amazon and Sky all starting to deliver VR material things should start becoming really interesting.

Well, you’re one up on me @carneades. I’m a lowly regular PS4 owner with no PSVR headset. Woe is me. I have been on a friend’s PSVR before though and it is amazing. I’m still of the opinion that it will be a loooooong time before it’s a mainstream toy though, if at all. But it is lots of fun. Do you not get bored of the long setup times or is the experience worth it?

I went to a Greenpeace event the other week to hear them talk about their amazing VR work. Well worth checking out and super easy to use: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/contribute/donate-now-to-receive-your-headset

The only headset that comes close is the HTC vibe; the rest are not that wonderful.

The Sony scores on clarity, definition, smoothness and wearability. I don’t tend to use the games: more interested in the VR sim side, really. I used to write games for Sinclair some years ago, but this is so far removed.

Dean: on the Pro the setup time varies by app. Some are a tad overlong – a lot of those on the demo disc are – but the full disc versions seem pretty nippy.

I have penned a verse or two in response to this topic. If anyone wishes to see this, they know where to look.

I got a free Samsung Gear VR last year and whispers….It is still unused in the box. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but getting started wasn’t made easy.

Samsung make good products but make anything else to do with them really hard work. We’ve just bought a new Sammy freezer and registering for the extra warranty took an eternity, it’s so badly though -through – or not even thought through, really.

Looking at the freezer reports I note Samsung fills the top three Best Buy s. This might be wonderful apart from it is the identical freezer but with black, white and silver “skin”.

Seems highly illogical.

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Samsung has annoyed me greatly! I have a smart TV about 3-4 years old and I cannot get ITV Hub to work and now BBC iPlayer will stop working in October. BBC claims that it is because Samsung has not updated the software required. i am surprised that there has not been more publicity about this! Any advice on solving this problem would be appreciated. if this is the wrong board to raise this matter please advise me!

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Thank you Duncan. I am grateful for the explanation and the good advice. I will look for the Roku Box online!

optical damage,
trailing cables
chance to injure self or others

A not insignificant list of drawbacks which to be honest I would have hoped a consumer mag would have mentioned in any article. Boosting consumer goods is what ad agencies get paid for and consumer watchdog mags explain the drawbacks not mentioned in the ads before people part with their money.


Something else for those with more money than sense to buy because they want to brag that they the first to use it I know nothing about VR is just seems to be the next gimmick to take over the media attention Media push things fools will buy as always Many people and things are just created by the media