A trip to Singapore with Samsung’s Gear 360 showed how VR fills a void between photos and videos that I didn’t even realize existed.
The iPhone was hard to come by when it first came out. Even if you were willing to pay the exorbitant price, it had sold out in just a few hours in my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. So when I pulled mine out at bars or on street corners, I was exceptionally popular. People wanted to see it and talk to me about it. They wanted to understand how it worked. And after talking to me for 10 minutes, they wanted one.
I haven’t had an experience like that with any other piece of technology until a few weeks ago, when I started to use the Samsung Gear 360 on a trip to Singapore. The tiny globe—it looks a bit like a GoPro, a bit like a webcam—captures 360-degree photos and videos using two fish-eye lenses. The result can then be shared with friends online, who can move around inside the image using a mouse, or viewed using a VR headset such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard. And it attracts curious people like mosquitoes to a bug zapper.
If you’d told me six months ago I’d be stoked about shooting VR videos, I would have laughed at you. Most of the VR experiences I’ve had have made me a little nauseous, so shooting my own wasn’t exactly something I was clamoring to do. Then I went to a dinner party where a friend of mine had a 360 camera and was taking photos of the group. I had to try it out. Bzzzt.
With 360 pics and VR, you truly feel like you’re somewhere, not just experiencing it through someone else’s eyes. It’s not exactly like being there, but it’s tremendously closer than anything I’ve ever been able to capture or share before. And that really excites me: