Living with Technology: Forget rose-colored glasses, check out virtual-reality goggles
Published 8:56 am, Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Before Sunday's Super Bowl, I had an opportunity to try out a virtual-reality headset, courtesy of my friend Michael Miller.
Virtual reality is essentially a (big) set of goggles that you wear. As you turn your head, you can look around inside a virtual world in 3D.
The idea is that you seem to be somewhere else, whether it be at a concert, in a movie, interacting with others a long way away, playing a game or a myriad of other uses.
The virtual reality headset I used was the Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus.
The headset looks much like a ski or SCUBA mask, although there are some controls on the side (a trackpad and "Home" button) to navigate the menus, a focus wheel on top and straps to hold it on your head.
There's an app that is loaded onto the Note 4 and the screen of the smartphone is what is looked at by the optics in the headset.
It's also good if you plug in a set of headphones to get the best stereo sound.
When you put on the headset, there are a number of options. You can select a video of a man playing a piano in a studio, there are some movie trailers, a tour of Iceland while suspended under a helicopter, and more.
I have to say that the experience was pretty good. As I turned my head around, I could see all around me. I could look up, down, left and right. There was no lag and the images were pretty good. Even the 3D imaging let me see depth.
I did notice that the images were somewhat grainy. Remember, you're looking at half of a smartphone screen, so even some very high resolution screens aren't that clear when you divide them in half and enlarge them a lot.
But the experience was remarkable.
For those of us who remember the Star Trek "holodeck" experience, we're nowhere near that immersive, realistic experience, but it's science fiction, not science fantasy anymore.
I won't begin to predict what the uses for this will be. Certainly entertainment has many options for this, as does travel and communications.
Wouldn't it be nice to join your family for Thanksgiving dinner even if you can't be there in person? It's not that crazy anymore.
The demo I saw was pretty impressive. How much content, tools and services will be created to support the virtual reality technology will determine how mainstream it becomes.
In any event, I hope it catches on. The possibilities are endless and it would be a lot of fun.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org