My better half gave it to me and I said, “Ah, they’re just trying to sell you something.” She got the last laugh as the “it” was a Google Cardboard headset, free in the Sunday NY Times. For reasons yet explainable I started to assemble the viewer by folding the corrugated cardboard as per the instructions. Voila…it looked like an old View Master, which actually got my antennae up. But where’s the old disks? No disks, son. This is Virtual Reality and all you need is your phone.
Google Cardboard came to be with its “20% Innovation Time Off” where two enterprising staff members came up with the open source design. Google gives away the design and sells its viewers for cheap with the hopes of advancing the technology for its Android power base (although they now offer it for iOS).
The beauty of this new system is its simplicity. You simply slide your smartphone into the viewer and away you go. After adding the Cardboard app (QR on the box) I was off and running. In the old Apple and Windows systems, they gave you Solitare to get you used to the mouse. Cardboard gives you these “walk throughs” that give you the VR feel. “Urban Hike” had me walking around some open park until I hit a stanchion and started to look up. It was the Eiffel Tower and I almost fell over, it was so real. I was there. The Discovery app had the next level of VR, deep sea diving, spacewalking and foraging with lions on the savannah.
Virtual Reality video is also called “spherical video” with at least 16 cameras positioned around a globe with Go Pro being the camera of choice. Since they are capturing all around (and the editing software makes it seamless) you are immersed. Look up…all the way up. Or down, at the ground. Or spin around (yes, you physically must turn around) to see what that noise was behind you. It is truly mesmerizing.
So what does this have to do with team building, hunts and escape games? Everything. VR opens up the world to my participants and by adding elements of a very real world to the activity. I can have them search for clues at the base of the Sphinx, the halls of the Louvre, in an Amazon rainforest or even in a fictitious room of my design. But I don’t envision having a ballroom of corporate executives on VR headsets for two hours but those five or ten minutes on top of Everest will never be forgotten. My “Escape Your Room” event and the “Treasure Hunt Adventure” are soon to have new elements of VR imbedded in them
I have to admit that my first glimpse of Virtual Reality a few years ago left me with a negative feeling – all these nerds living life in a headset instead of really experiencing it. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, is advice that truly applies here.
And to my wife: I shall never doubt you again (but if I do, there’s a virtual doghouse waiting.)
Get started now:
Get a head piece first.