Verizon recently gave some of its customers the chance to participate in what they thought was a virtual reality experiment. During the course of the VR “experience” participants were given a “headset,” a “power glove,” and some headphones (no quotes here, pretty sure those were legit headphones).
The customers were then given the chance to throw a “digital” football to a “virtual” Odell Beckham Jr. The twist, of course, came when the customers realized their headset was merely two fisheye lenses, their power glove was nothing more than some useless LEDs taped to a gardening glove, and the virtual Beckham Jr. was in fact the real wide receiver for the New York Giants.
The video is a promotional ad Verizon claims uses real-life customers and at the end everyone is laughing and smiling. Well, so am I, but for completely different reasons.
This ad is funny to me not because it’s outrageous to see strangers wave their arms for no reason – even though it is and always will be. This ad is funny to me because not one person questioned if the experience they were enjoying was real. No one wondered how the “power glove” was tracked, or how Beckham Jr. could be so realistically rendered over actual physical space. If I saw this demo as a VR journalist I would break my kneecaps running to call it into my editor.
Tech like this would make the team’s over at Meta and Leap Motion sweat through their prototypes. And yet, not one person featured in the video thought anything of it. This ad – as coerced and severely edited as I’m sure it is – made me realize just how far the VR industry has to go to win over the hearts and, more importantly, the minds of average consumers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish this business filing for “Power Glove Inc.” so I can start making millions.