While apps like Bigscreen have allowed people on Steam and Oculus to watch videos and movies with their friends in virtual reality (VR), the PSVR crowd is finally getting their own VR theater – in Japan, at least. According to a report by CNET Japan, Sony pushed an update to their virtual theater app Theater Room VR that allows PSVR owners to connect with up to three other people in VR.
However, there’s a catch – in order for people to watch content together in Theater Room VR, every user in a room has to purchase that same content individually. As of now, there’s no content sharing option (), and streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu are not integrated into the service. While most rentals on the PlayStation Store don’t exceed $7-8 per video, this price is around how much movie theaters such as AMC would charge for a brand new release – including stellar audio/visual presentation that headsets can’t yet match and the real-life companionship of your friends instead of their digital avatars.
For social VR applications to work effectively (and even just VR in general), they need to provide the means for their audiences to do things either easier or more enjoyable than other affordable alternatives that have had decades of experience to refine their offerings. VR’s adoption has and is going through fits and starts because providers get in their own way, and just drive more people away to other offerings that they’re comfortable with instead of giving them a reason to see VR’s value. Merely emulating existing experiences isn’t enough to convince people – those experiences need to be infused with the magic that makes VR stand out from all the rest.
The First Attempt at a VR Experience – The Sensorama. In the 1950s, a cinematographer by the name of Morton Heilig came up with a unique concept he later developed, known as the Sensorama. Featuring an arcade-style theater cabinet, the sensorama was aimed at stimulating a person’s senses. It featured a stereoscopic 3D display, fans and smell generators, stereo speakers, as well as a vibrating chair. The idea of the Sensorama was to fully immerse a person into a film-like experience. Heilig also went on to create as much as six short movies for his device.