Virtual Reality

When it comes to immersive experiences, for me, three stand out to date. Burning Man. Dismaland. And You Me Bum Bum Train, a theatre ‘production’ in which I have performed. I am not allowed to tell you what the show shows or what acting in it entails but if you have seen it, you will know you are put into situations you might never otherwise experience. Experience being the operative word.

And now that I have discovered VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality, i.e. Pokemon Go) and MR (mixed reality), I am overjoyed. VR is the next big medium in storytelling. Not just for geeks and gamers, it’s for everyone of every age. And it’s not happening in 2020. It’s happening now.

To enjoy VR in your own home, you need a headset. In this, you put your smart phone, having downloaded a 3D-specific app which will show a film/commercial/music video/game. You turn your head around and get a 360° view. All allow the viewer to be right in a situation – be that a Syrian refugee camp, a prison cell, a shoot-out on a housing estate (as I have been, thanks to creator Nonny de La Pena at Emblematic) or a heavenly lake with a train running through it (via Here Be Dragons, available on their Within app).

Get a headset. The cheapest is Google Cardboard. Next up are lots of plastic-y goggles for £20 and up; consider these a false economy. The real quality comes further up the scale. Oculus Rift and Oculus Gear VR are clear and comfortable. Google’s soon-for-sale Daydream is even more so (Ikea-cashmere-sofa-kind-of-comfy). Fove looks cool. Sony PlayStation VR is set to be big. And then we come on to ‘tethered’ headsets which are connected to a PC rather than a phone, with which you can walk around and wave your Tilt Brush, like the HTC Vive . Still in development, the Microsoft HoloLens is hugely exciting. And don’t get me started on Meta; this is the next phase in VR development. It hails the arrival of MR and incorporates holograms of objects combined with things that are really in front of you. Or are they?—Kinvara Balfour

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