Watching live sport, concerts and movies in virtual reality

Virtual reality is coming. In fact, it’s already here. But it’s going to become a whole lot bigger and better.

In the not too distant future, sports fans will be able to watch their favourite teams using virtual reality. Virtual stadiums will mimic the real thing, boosting the thrill of watching live sport from your couch.

The experience of watching a movie will evolve. Viewers will feel like they’re inside the movie itself.

A virtual concert, too, will feel like the real thing, without the lineups for the bar and bathroom. (But you’ll never replace the real thing in our opinion – at least we hope not).

How about a holiday in virtual reality? Fancy a trip to Hawaii without the plane trip and airport hassles? (Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but this is where things are headed). Mind you, a trip to Hawaii for an hour or two after a long, hard day at work sounds pretty attractive.

There’s plenty of positives to the technology in the healthcare and education sectors. And shopping… that’s a whole new ballgame.

A recent study found a quarter of Aussie householders will own a virtual reality headset by 2021. It’s expected to be a gold mine in new business opportunities.

The study claimed that 59 per cent of Australian businesses were investigating virtual-reality uses and strategies.

The study was commissioned by the nbn. So it should, of course, be read in that context. The nbn is trying to promote itself and encourage more use of its network. Fair enough, too. Enough money has been spent on it.

We still hear quite a few stories around the Hunter about problems with the nbn. For example, one bloke we know was told by a couple of telecommunications workers that he couldn’t connect to the network, only for another to tell him he could.

And some people still have trouble with drop-outs. We’re told that the more you complain to your providers about these problems, the better off you’ll be because this will (ideally) prompt them to increase capacity in your area.

Despite the problems, some say they’re happy with their service as it is.

Escape to Another World

Andy Gallagher founded a virtual reality company in Newcastle called VRXP.

“At our studio, we’ve seen huge interest in the high-end virtual reality entertainment we have on offer at VRXP,” Andrew said.

“I believe it’s a positive form of escapism, as complete sensory immersion allows you to take on a new identity in another world.”

Reimagining yourself in a new environment “can be a relaxing, empowering and thrilling experience”, he said.

“No other form of entertainment can match that.”

This sounds great. But we probably should, at least for a second or two, ponder the effects of plunging headlong into the virtual-reality world.

As science and technology take us to new frontiers in entertainment and pop culture, we become increasingly engulfed in a media-saturated world.

This, of course, is much better than being engulfed in a disease-ridden and poverty-stricken world. Nevertheless, one must surely consider the pitfalls before one jumps feet first into a new dimension.

Take for instance one plotline in the cult novel Infinite Jest, in which a video cartridge is so compelling and mesmerising that those who watch it are instantly addicted and have no desire to do anything but watch it.

This cartridge becomes the ultimate terrorist weapon, as it can be used to entertain people into a senseless state. This is irony and satire at its best. But some think it’s not too far from the world of cat videos, clickbait, reality TV and Kim Kardashian’s bum – all of which are popular slices of today’s fragmented and ever-expanding mass media landscape.

The Stars Above

The milky way above Catherine Hill Bay. Photo: Karl Lindsay.

The milky way above Catherine Hill Bay. Photo: Karl Lindsay.

Having reported on the future of the entertainment world, it’s worthwhile mentioning the enjoyment we can get from the natural world (using technology of course).

Astronomer Dave Reneke, of Australasian Science magazine, loves “stargazing at the Milky Way” at this time of year. He likes to watch the stars rise in the east and “move westward over a period of just a few hours”.

“We get to see the constellations in a passing parade that goes back millennia. Have you ever stretched out on a blanket at night and talked about the stars and the constellations?”, he says.

He described the constellations as “benchmarks in the night sky” to plot and predict the movement of planets, meteorite showers and comets.

“Do you know where to look? Download an app on your phone called Sky Safari for a real-time view of the constellations with some fascinating detail,” Dave says.

“All you do is hold your smartphone or tablet to the sky and it shows you all the constellations, planets and stars.”

The app costs $4.49, but we also found SkyView and Sky Map, which are free.