For less than the cost of a Subway sandwich, you can get in on the next great tech marvel called Virtual Reality.
Why should I, you ask. I’m not a gamer or a techie. I’ve got better things to do.
Okay. But you’ll be missing out on a technology that’s swiftly moving from Geeksville to Main Street—if the New York Times, the Associated Press and CNN qualify as “Main Street” to you.
Virtual Reality (VR) is technology that gives you a 3-D view of whatever you’re looking at. But unlike 3-D movies, VR puts you into the center of things. You can look up, down, side to side and turn around. You’re actually inside the story in a way that no other technology allows.
Good for gamers? Sure. But it’s more than that when the New York Times announces that they’ve adopted VR as its next major step in journalism. It plans to produce several films in VR; its first, “The Displaced,” about children uprooted by today’s war zones, is already available. To watch it, you’ll need to download a free New York Times VR iPhone or Android Times app on your smartphone, download the film from the Times website, and get a set of virtually free Google VR goggles to watch it. You put your smartphone inside the goggles, and, voila!, you’re there.
The goggles are free to Times Sunday paper subscribers—or you can buy them on line for virtually nothing. NewEgg, for example, has them starting $3.99. They’re part of Google’s Cardboard initiative that has created usable VR googles made from cardboard to get people into VR technology.
The Times isn’t alone. The Associated Press just announced it’s releasing its first VR news story, “Seeking Home: Life Inside the Calais Migrant Camp,” a story about a French migrant camp. And CNN simulcast the first Democratic Presidential debate on video and VR.
VR technology is looked at by some as the most important tech development since the introduction of the Internet, but like any new tech, it may be messy for a while. As with smartphone tech, there are already competing VR formats. Aside from Google Cardboard, the other mainstream format is Oculus Rift. Be sure and check if the VR video you want to watch is compatible with whatever VR goggles you have.
At some point you may ask if this is yet another tech debacle: for example, the 3-D TV set explosion that never happened. No one knows yet. But Facebook paid $2 billion for the VR company Oculus, anticipating that it had bought the next tech beyond video. Microsoft is developing HoloLens technology that lets you see the real world and 3-D computer-generated objects simultaneously. Of course there’s Google Cardboard and its free/nearly free VR goggles. Then there’s the NBA, NASA, Volvo and others who are using VR to demonstrate its products.
A fad? Quite possibly. But don’t be surprised if VR turns out to quite more than that.