Teens look ahead to VR despite flaws

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to try out virtual reality devices. And while the experiences weren’t perfect, my friends and I can definitely see the potential.

The first time was at my high school, Blackstone Valley Tech, in Upton, Massachusetts during a demo of several different mobile-based headsets — decent quality, and low prices.

The Playglass virtual reality headset.

The Playglass virtual reality headset.

I tested out the Playglass headset, and my Moto G smartphone fit perfectly and the virtual reality view was correctly oriented and looked good. The headset itself was a little uncomfortable, but not enough to bother me.

The SimSpray system. (Image courtesy VRSim Inc.)

The SimSpray system. (Image courtesy VRSim Inc.)

The second time was an auto body simulator, VRSim Inc.’s SimSpray, where I had to spray paint a door. The simulator came with a headset, a VR spray paint gun, and a cube-shaped sensor that I was required to aim at to paint the door.

I had to stay in an uncomfortable position so the sensor would read the gun when I pulled the trigger, and the headset was poor quality and uncomfortable. I had to take off the headset multiple times and look at the screen on the SimSpray to see what I was working on because the view inside the headset was so bad.

When I finished the work, I looked at the screen in the headset and then the screen on the SimSpray. The final result was different in the two views.

But even with this one poor experience, I still believe that my overall experience with virtual reality is positive.

I’m not alone in this.

“I believe virtual reality can really impact the engineering industry as engineers may no longer need to map out their plans because it would be displayed by the device,” said Colin Norcross-Joyce, a 15-year-old Massachusetts high school student at Blackstone Valley Tech.

He expects that virtual reality will reduce the costs that are associated with traditional design.

“I’m excited for the future of virtual reality,” said another 15-year-old Blackstone Valley Tech student, James Fiore. “I would 100 percent purchase one now and also when it is fully developed in the future.”

Price is a factor, however, with the high-end headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive costing hundreds of dollars.

“If I had the money, I would definitely buy virtual reality right away,” said Fiore.

In fact, according to a survey conducted late last year, 79 percent of teens and tweens are passionate or excited about virtual reality, beating out every other generational segment. But 60 percent of the people polled weren’t willing pay over $400 dollars for a headset.

Fortunately, VR headsets don’t all cost that much.

The Mattel View-Master VR headset is only $30 and is a perfect gift for people beginning their journey down the path of virtual reality.

If you have a late-model Samsung smartphone, you can purchase the Samsung Gear VR for $100.

And there are multiple VR headsets that fall in the under-$100 price range.

Jack Clem

Jack Clem is a freelance technology writer based in Massachusetts. Follow him on LinkedIn.