See Jane Fonda react to trying VR for the first time, at a sushi restaurant

by Will Mason • January 29th, 2015

“Sundance, it’s not about the snow, it’s about the heat!” Ari Gold’s words rang true at this year’s Sundance, where stars could be seen out and about everywhere on main street (and where the warm winter meant the snow was limited). I met some cool people, but there was one random encounter that really stood out, when we showed the Gear VR to an eager group of onlookers at a Sushi restaurant Tuesday night.

We had just left an awards party and were hungry, there had been some finger food here and there throughout the day but we hadn’t had a meal at all. It was four of us, Taylor, Nick, Helen (from NextVR) and myself and we were wandering down mainstreet looking for a restaurant that had yet to turn itself into a nightclub for the evening. Tucked inside a little strip off main, we found this Sushi restaurant that looked amazing, and headed in.

I had the idea at that time to put on the Gear VR and go into pass through, I had seen people try to eat sushi in VR and I had seen people try and order drinks in VR, but hadn’t seen both done at the same time and was emboldened to do so. The waitress laughed a bit when taking my order, but brought us some sushi and sake. We all clinked cups and I drank my sake. As I turned my head back down I saw that someone had approached the table and was starting to ask about the Gear. I looked over at Helen and we decided in that instant to turn this into a demo dinner.

As Helen professionally guided the guy through the NextVR demo reel, his reactions began to draw a small crowd. First it was just his friends, but soon most of the restaurant had gathered around the table, awaiting their turn to sit courtside at an NBA game, see Coldplay on stage, sit on the catwalk of a fashion show, and visit a number of locales.

After about 45 minutes of demoing, someone began whispering, “is that Jane Fonda?”

Looking up, I saw a woman in sunglasses standing by her table at the other side of the room, enthralled by the crowd. It didn’t take long to recognize her for myself or her companion Lily Tomlin, whom she was travelling with and covering Sundance. I asked if they wanted to try it for themselves and they excitedly said yes, as we brought her to the chair to sit down. I asked them if they had ever tried VR before, and both responded that they had not, but were excited to.

Helen walked Fonda through the process briefly before handing her the Gear. After taking off the headset, Fonda excitedly told Tomlin she “had to try this.” And went to grab her iPad so she could film her friend going through the experience for her blog. When I asked them what they thought, they both said they were blown away by the experience and were excited to try more.

If VR has the power to amaze someone like Jane Fonda or Adrian Grenier, who have seen a lot of amazing things in their illustrious careers, I’m sure, it has the power to amaze anyone. The snow wasn’t out at Sundance this year because VR was so hot, it melted it all away.

From Left, Will Mason, Helen Situ, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Nick Ochoa

From Left, Will Mason, Helen Situ, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Nick Ochoa

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