Virtual reality: often talked about, usually poorly executed. In the past, I’ve never felt completely immersed in a virtual experience, resorting to suspending disbelief and relying on imagination to truly think I was flying a fighter jet or traveling the world.
But my opinions of VR technology, and its applications, are changing after visiting Samsung 837, a showroom of the company’s latest and greatest VR experiences.
Located in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district, Samsung 837 is a first-class showroom exploring the applications of virtual reality. Inside the somewhat nondescript building, it’s a blast to the senses: music pumps from the in-house DJ, images on the wall, including the “world’s largest selfie,” are constantly rushing past, and shrine-like displays hold the latest Samsung smartphones.
The first stop was the “4D” rollercoaster, which paired 3D goggles with a simulator and a waiver indemnifying Samsung in case you accidentally elbow your neighbor (sorry, Juan). I was prepared for a generic simulation experience: the chair would rock a few times and I’d have to suspend my senses for the duration to feign a VR experience. I don’t know whether it was the rocking chair or hearing the yelps of the people next to me (looking at you, Kevin), but I truly felt I was on Six Flags’ Tatsu rollercoaster, plummeting headfirst into the leafy grounds below. At one point, I had to remind myself that no, I wasn’t actually on a roller coaster, so I could stop hyperventilating (heights are the worst). Scorecard: VR – 1, Skepticism – 0.
In another VR experience, I strapped on one of those oh-so fashionable headsets and a pair of high-grade headphones. The result: total immersion. With a few clicks on the side of the headset, I got up close with an apatosaurus resting under the Redwoods (add a fan and it would have felt like the dinosaur was really sniffing me), watched a Pixar-light animated short about a fisherman, and even learned how to cook shrimp with mushrooms and bean sprouts with a wok, sticking my face into the steaming wok to check on the status of the protein.
Samsung also displayed its line of household appliances that are a part of the “Internet of things,” like a fridge that keeps your grocery list up to date and a coffeepot that turns on via a smartphone app—coming soon (if not already there) to a countertop near you.
So what does this snazzy VR technology mean? We consumers will definitely be interacting with TV shows, video games, movies, apps and other digital platforms in 3D VR landscapes in the near future. And advertisers will need to be onboard, creating immersive experiences that pair entertainment with product/service placement. Me, I’m hoping to one day actually fight in Star Wars. Savvy marketers will be along for the ride.