Humongous headsets and virtual insanity

VR goggles can give a great experience, but are they stuck in a niche?

The olden days

There's another point that I think is very important. My grandmother – who will be 100 years old in August – has some very interesting memories, as you might expect of someone who was born in the infancy of wireless and cinema. The one that's most relevant here, perhaps, is her memories of radio.

In particular, she remembers when her household first got a loudspeaker for the radio, and what a change that was. Finally, everyone could listen together, in comfort.

A family listening to a crystal radio set

In the days before speakers, you needed a headset for everyone. Plus ca change...

Before that, there were three crystal headsets – one for her, and one each for her parents. If a visitor wished to hear something on the wireless, that meant my grandmother had to sit silently while everyone else was connected up.

That sounds a little like VR at the moment, I fear, especially when you note the restrictions mentioned on the Samsung Gear VR site. It suggests under 13s shouldn't use it, lest it affects their hand-eye co-ordination, makes their brain trickle out through their ears, or some other horror the lawyers have decided people need to be warned about.

Even if you do have VR kit at home, it is essentially a single person experience, far more so than those old crystal radio headphones. At least with those, you could see the look on someone's face as they listened. For now though, VR is not a communal experience.

Even if there were a VR drama on the BBC, you wouldn't necessarily be enjoying it together. You'd be sitting in a room with a helmet on, with someone next to you. To the casual observer, you may as well be in the Matrix.

NHM VR Experience audience

Welcome to the Matrix. Photo credit: Altantic_Alchemy VR

It wasn't really appropriate to hold the hand of the person next to me at the Natural History Museum, so I can't say whether or not it would have enhanced the experience for either of us, but perhaps that's one area that needs more work.

Or am I alone in thinking that being able to make a deep sea dive, or a trip to an exotic location into a shared virtual experience could enhance it?

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