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Op-Ed: I have seen the future of entertainment and it’s virtual reality

I’m watching an animated assassin tangle with Jack the Ripper in a 19th-century London kitchen, and I look around to see pots and pans fly by me, and I turn 360 degrees to see more stuff clatter behind me. As a voyeur, I’m enthralled and immersed so deeply in the scene, it’s hard to tear myself away. Oh wait, I can’t, because I have a headset on and only removing the device from my face would jump me out of the fight.

Being absorbed by the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Jack the Ripper DLC made me a VR believer. I have since enjoyed videos on the Samsung VR app ranging from GoPro clips of guys surfing to Star Wars footage to short films reminiscent of early Alien. And with almost every video, where I spin around on a chair to see the full range of viewing angles available, I am enthralled by how advanced this tech has become since its nascent days.

I remember two years ago when my colleague Michael and I first experienced VR at a Game of Thrones exhibit in downtown Toronto. It was cool, it was breathtaking, but was short-lived. We were taken atop the Wall to overlook the fantastical land below and we flinched when a catapulted fireball rocketed past us. It lasted around a minute

Now, with Samsung Milk’s app, more variety is spicing up the wow factor. I especially found it fascinating to be inside a real-world scenario, such as following a girl in Africa as she travels to a stream to get water for her home. Or sailing along the Ganges River in India, complete with close-up views of men washing themselves in the river as part of a religious ceremony.

The headset and Samsung phone used for the Samsung Gear VR

The headset and Samsung phone used for the Samsung Gear VR

These VR sessions inspired me to consider how filmmaking can soar with virtual applications. Documentaries are especially conducive to VR, where the viewer can be placed in a situation like a war zone and almost feel the tension and chaos. Or a guided tour of an ancient city can be enhanced immensely in VR, where the ruins can almost feel touchable. I admit, more than once I reached out my hand during a VR session expecting my real hand to appear in the footage I was enjoying.

Fictional filmmaking would also benefit from touches of VR, but a major caveat here: I could handle around 15 minutes of VR maximum before I felt a little dizzy, even nauseous. Our brains are just not accustomed to this type of technology, not yet at least. And so filmmaking can definitely take that innovative leap with short films, either animated or real-life. I can see how the VR film will be unlike any film in the world, where outside distractions don’t impede your viewing entertainment, even if that does make us more isolated in a community of fellow film-goers.

It’s almost jaw-dropping to think about how gaming could harness VR. It might be available now in patches, but if gaming in VR matures enough to allow mass adoption for this tech, watch out! Imagine playing a game like Call of Duty as if you’re actually a Navy SEAL, or imagine how haptic technology could let you feel the wind zipping by as you careen through a city in a racing game.

Gaming could also be used for a more therapeutic purpose. PTSD sufferers have been trying VR to immerse themselves in exposure therapy in a manner that hasn’t been done before. But what if VR can help those with mental health issues receive more appropriate training for new jobs? We know that training is often done across the board for all new staff, but if VR can help tailor certain training programs for those with special needs, then its holistic reason for existence is further justified.

VR’s potential is just starting to be realized, but if my weeks of testing is any indication, the future of virtual reality looks incredibly high-def…and in full 360-degree panorama.

Related: The top Samsung Gear VR videos and games

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