I have not used any VR devices, having a hard time finding a place in my life for a good fit. My grandson has a VR headset for his cell phone but had no desire to use them. Sandra at the Back Channel tried to check out the Olympics using VR and was not impressed.
Hi there Backchannelers. This is Sandra, and I’m a VR skeptic. Yet with the Olympics embracing virtual reality, it’s clear even to a slow adopter that we’ve reached a turning point. The time has come for us holdouts to find religion. So this week I borrowed a Samsung Gear VR — the only NBC-approved headset — loaded up the network’s app, and tapped into the beach volleyball feed.
There I am in Rio, hovering a few feet above the ground, just behind the courtside photographers. I fiddle with the focus dial and peer at the figures on the court, four of the most athletic women in the world. But I can’t really see them. They are so blurry that all I can say with confidence is boy, are they tall.
The Talls are lunging across the sand and hammering at the ball. They thwack blistering serves and high-five and hug. The Talls, I learn, are Russian and Brazilian. But I can’t see their faces. I can barely tell the color of their bikinis. I feel no human connection to these lanky superbeings.
The image quality is about what you’d get with your nose pressed up against an old CRT, a combination of low resolution and what’s known as the “screen door effect,” for the thin lines that appear between magnified pixels. It’s like I got the most amazing seats in Rio, and then someone draped mosquito netting over my face. (So much for avoiding the hassles of Zika-proofing.)
To get a better view of the players, I try walking a few paces to my left, but my Rio-based self remains fixed in place. So I twist around to gawk at the people in the stands. There they are! Audience. Confirmed. After watching some match highlights and wondering about the strange man staring intently at me (What do I look like to him — am I just a camera? How can I find a mirror in this weird world?), I flip back to the app’s main menu and pull up the gymnastics feed.
Read the whole review HERE. More work is needed to make VR more usable. Maybe usability should be the Green Screen Institute mission?