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VR vs. MR… On The Face Of It

Hello and welcome to another week of VR vs. with myself fresh off a much needed four day weekend after E3 and that which proceeded and followed it. That particular topic is done and dusted for the time being and we’re unlikely to revisit Speculationsville on game and hardware announcements until this year’s Gamescom where upon the whole business will start again. As I say though, that’s a topic is shelved for now. Even though it does leave people who need to write weekly articles in a bit of a quandary over what to then write about during this period. (Naming no names, of course.)

I mean I could write this week about some sort of football analogy – though strangely enough after last night I’m not that keen. I wonder why.  I could talk about ‘Brexit’ but it’d probably just end up being 500 words, twenty percent of which would be ‘Farage’ and the rest being a selection of increasingly colourful terms beginning with T, W, S, F and C. Tying that in to virtual reality (VR) would be somewhat difficult and, let’s face it, probably wouldn’t endear myself that much to the Editor. More to the point, our resident VR queen Zeena has already done a Brexit related article that I recommend you all take a look at if you get the chance.

So instead of the usual ‘why isn’t X doing Y’ that VR Vs usually ends up being, instead I’d like to ask you a question: Why are reaction videos so popular on the internet? Be it the Fine Brothers or just a fan in their room reacting to a television show, ‘react’ videos can develop quite a following. There are individuals, pairs, group, everyone can do them. Heck, I’m even involved with such a series myself. They might not be everybody’s cup of darjeeling but the secret to their popularity is, at its core, simple. We have our own preconceptions of something, our thoughts about something or our memories of something and we’re all frightfully keen to see what someone else thinks so we’re able to validate our own views. That and seeing other people enjoy something does a lot of the time make you watching feel happy. VR is a little bit like that I’ve found. Whilst VR is a ‘try it to understand’ technology, we also like to see other people’s reactions to said technology. Be it a grandmother terrified by a dinosaur looming towards her or a small child smiling in wonder as they escape their hospital bed to travel down a rollercoaster. Noted Let’s Players and YouTube personalities are using the technology, not just because it’s hot but because they enjoy doing so. Their reactions to the virtual world around them are heightened by being immersed in it and so there’s an additional sense of enjoyment and understanding. (If you’d like a recommendation, I’ve personally been watching a lot of Jacksepticeye’s VR related videos recently and they’re a great advertisement for the joy you can get out of VR.)

mixed reality

The reason why I’m talking about this particular topic is that in recent weeks I’ve a) received possession of the VRFocus Gear VR and b) begun to be that guy who wants to introduce other people to what VR is. The results so far have been quite something, with both individuals so far introduced wanting to learn more about VR, experience more forms of VR and move on to deeper VR experiences. I’d even go so far to say it was an absolute privilege being the person who introduced it to them, which seems somewhat pompous to say but their wonder at it all was so evident I ended the day feeling as though I’d opened a door somehow and had helped two people who I really care about have a fantastic time. Myself and VR both being responsible for the big grins plastered all over their faces.

So we’ve got video reactions and ‘real’ reactions and we’ve also got dynamic virtual video content in the form of Mixed Reality (MR). It looks amazing; again a great advertisement. And yet there’s now something about it that bothers me after seeing it live and in action on Oculus’ E3 live stream. Am I going to get that same level of connection, of enjoyment of someone’s reaction with MR as I would with a general let’s play or a video recorded on someone’s phone? Something that is usually close-up and focused.

I’m starting to worry no. Because in that live stream I didn’t see the face. Oh, I saw the actions alright, but never at any time had I any idea how they were feeling. It showed me the virtual world and I was impressed by the technology but it didn’t show me the actual joy. To me at least VR’s money shot isn’t the fiction brought to life but the smile, or the scream, or the tears manifested by it. 

VR can move you. You can move others.
MR can show you, and it can show you.
But if it doesn’t show you, then is there any point in watching it at all?