As if wearing a bulky VR headset on your face didn’t look awkward enough, somebody’s gone and cobbled together one that can be used underwater.
Yes, a VR headset you wear in a pool. Let that sink in (no pun intended!) for a minute.
The VR headset, which MIT Technology Review says is about as decent as Google Cardboard, was created by Allan Evans, cofounder of the Avegant, the company behind the Glyph headset, and Stephen Greenwood, the director of creative development at Discovery Digital Networks, as a side project to “combine an isolation tank — where you float in a dark, silent room, alone — with virtual reality.”
There’s nothing special about the headset, either. It’s made from a waterproof Android phone, a snorkeling mask and a 3D-printed chunk of plastic that holds it all together.
Ohhh … boy.
One of the reasons why VR gets a bad rap is precisely because it can be such an isolating experience. If anything, the underwater VR headset should only intensify the feeling of being cut off from the world, especially since you can feel the cold, wet water, but you can’t see it.
“I think there’s a little more of a suspension of disbelief when you’re in a radically different environment,” Greenwood told MIT Technology Review. “When you don’t have a sense of the ground or gravity or what’s up or what’s down, it makes it that much more believable.”
MIT Technology Review’s Rachel Metz tried several underwater VR experiences that were designed to help the user relax, including one where she floated above the International Space Station with “Space Oddity” on loop and another where she swam with fish while listening to jazz.
As Metz notes, the setup is far from ready for mainstream — it’s really just an experiment right now — but it’s still fun, even when water seeped into her snorkel mask and the lack of accurate head-tracking broke some of the immersion.
For me, though, I’ll probably just stick to VR on land. There’s nothing epic about drowning in real life, while I think I’m in space.