I have come down from my very first virtual reality experience and it was amazing! Black Public Media (BPM) held a VR mixer last Tuesday and I volunteered to assist in the screening room. We used the Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR headsets.
The Oculus, released a few months ago, is a standalone (un-tethered) headset and remote control that doesn’t require use of a connected smartphone. The VR content is downloadable directly from the headset. Current retail price is ~$200.
The Samsung Gear VR headset (which is powered by Oculus) is a smartphone accessory, meaning it requires a Samsung phone for power and downloading content. This lowers the price range to ~$40-$60, but it’s only affordable if you already have a compatible Samsung phone.
The first thing I noticed when putting on both headsets is that I have a big head and even bigger hair, lol. It was a struggle to put on. I resigned to just holding the screen to my face after watching a few videos and getting comfortable with the hardware. The second thing I noticed is how dizzying VR can be. If you’re prone to motion sickness as I am, it can be difficult to use for long periods. I definitely needed to take a break in between videos.
Visually, both headsets were amazing – you really were transported to different realms. You immediately forget the real world and start swiveling your body and reaching for objects that don’t exist. Watching someone else use the headsets was a friendly realization of how crazy I probably looked, 🤣.
360 refers to 360 degrees, meaning the video placed you in the center and as you turned full circle you would see the cast of Hamilton surrounding you as they sing. Absolutely beautiful. I really, really need to see it on Broadway!
NSAF was such an incredibly satisfying and important experience as well. Completely CGI, it places you in a futuristic beauty salon where instead of getting your hair done you have your synapses touched up. It spoke to me on a personal level as a black woman and after it finished I had so many questions. Luckily, the creator, Ashley Baccus-Clark, stopped by for a Q&A and shared her inspiring story.
I left the event full of energy and wonder. VR is definitely something I look forward to experiencing again. If you’re interested, BPM will be holding another mixer on Sept 18th! I will update you with details as the date nears.
Thank you for reading!