I've been spending my evenings in an empty movie theater.
It's a strange experience to look around, see that you have the room completely to yourself and stretch out to really enjoy the space. No one complains when you kick their seat. You can talk if you want. I don't worry about people getting annoyed when I crinkle the wrapper on my candy.
The hard part is taking off the virtual reality goggles and getting used to being back in my living room after the two-hour film is over. It feels a bit like teleportation, and can make one slightly ill.
Gear VR is a self-contained, portable virtual reality device from Samsung and Oculus. Its primary function may be games, but it comes with a theater program that allows you to watch video files in either a simulated home theater or a full-sized movie theater. It also gives you the option of watching movies projected on the moon, or in an environment called "void" where the film floats a few feet from your eyes.
The last option is a little unsettling. It's just you and the movie, surrounded by a complete, velvet blackness. It's a good simulation of what would happen should oblivion begin projecting science fiction films.
I spend most of my time in the full-sized movie theater. Getting movies onto the device is a bit of the chore; integration with streaming services is hopefully coming later but for now you have to rip your existing content to a supported format. It can be a cumbersome process if you're not used to manipulating media files, but it's simple enough once you get the hang of it. I'd recommend using handbrake.
The rewards are great, even if the resolution is slightly lower than you may be used to on your standard HDTV. With a good set of headphones I'm completely isolated from my real environment. I look around and all I see is the theater and the movie. There is no Twitter, no Facebook and no background noise. No usher will ever come in and start cleaning. The floor is never sticky. There are no distractions.
This is the power of portable virtual reality; the ability to find yourself alone in a huge space using a device that fits into your backpack. The illusion of watching a film on a giant screen is complete, and being alone for two hours is amazing. Isolation on demand feels almost luxurious, as having your own personal movie theater isn't something possible for most people, and the fact this virtual version requires no physical upkeep is even better.
There is no Twitter, no Facebook and no background noise
I enjoy being able to see movies on a giant screen on command, and I like the feeling of being in a big space all by myself. Watching on a movie in my living room is great — I have a large television and a decent sound system — but when the kids are asleep I'm limited on audio and it's too easy to get distracted.
In my own movie theater? I can relax and ignore the outside world. Movie theaters are perfect experiences for current virtual reality. It's a limited environment and you don't have to move. Any comfortable chair you sit in allows your real-world body to match the in-program perception of what you're doing. It's impossible to multitask. It's become my favorite way to watch movies.
VR has many applications, but the fact I can carry a huge room around in a tiny package and escape into it at will is one of my favorite aspects of the technology. It's not a private holodeck — not yet — but it's getting just a bit closer.