So it was with a lot of excitement and a little bit of dread that I volunteered to write about the new Gear VR — a mobile VR headset from Samsung and Oculus.
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I started out with 360-degree videos, since I had recently experienced those with the The New York Times and Google Cardboard. The quality of the image was abysmal when streaming. It improved once I downloaded the videos, but still looked like a 720p YouTube clip at best. Despite the sometimes pixelated and blurry visual, I had to catch my breath while flying over New York City, or splashing in waves next to emerald blue ice floes, or bathing beside an elephant in a reedy swamp.
Of course, to get that experience, I had to download the film. While it’s easy enough to navigate and browse inside the Gear VR, there is something incredibly dehumanizing about watching a download bar tick by while trapped in a virtual living room, or worse, an endless black void.
I knew the “presence” it produced was strong when, standing on the edge of a cliff, I found myself unable to move my feet toward the edge — the lizard part of my brain insisting that the drop was real.