Exploring Virtual Reality

From phone repair to gaming

Summer is ending for most of the Validity readership.  I feel like it is just starting for me.  I completed my Master’s thesis in late June and am set to graduate in August.  I’ve also moved into a new apartment and started a new job.  I’ve been busy.  

Although many of my nerdy interests would bore the pants off most of you, there is one recent advancement worth sharing. But first, a story that I can only preface with the word “nightmare.” 

I purchased a new phone earlier this year, and it was a big deal.  I decided to switch from iPhone to Android. Gasp. 

After much research, I got a Samsung Galaxy Edge 7. I chose the sleek black one. With its curved edges, it was beauty incarnate. Although my iPhone buddies hated me because I became a “green friend,” I loved the way I could configure everything from looks to functionality. 

One of the most fun things about having the phone was a gadget I received as a gift, the Oculus VR. Although the VR is the point of this article, I’m not going to talk about it just yet. 

For now, we’ll return to the horror story. The store clerk had asked me if I would like Geek Squad protection on the phone. Without much consideration, I declined. The worst thing that ever happens to any phone I own is a broken screen, I reasoned, and it’s not much to have those replaced. 

Of course, not a month into owning my sleek new Cadillac of a phone, I dropped it on concrete, dashing the corner of the screen to more of a gravelly, sharded look. Not my style. 

No big deal, I thought. I’ll just take it back and have the geeks fix it. 

Apparently, you can only commission the geeks if you have purchased the protection plan, which I had so flippantly dismissed. I was told most phone repair stores could replace the screen, even though it was a pricy fix due to the phone’s fluid, curvy corners. 

I decided to have it repaired at a brand new, modern-looking store called uBreak iFix. I ponied up the exorbitant repair cost, which was regrettably half the cost of the phone. They had the screen replacement done in a few hours and I was back in business. For about an hour. 

I got home and popped my phone back into the cheap plastic case I had bought for it. My giant gorilla hands not only fractured the case, but after about half an hour or so, something began happening to my phone. A thin, bleeding line had appeared on the top half of the screen. I didn’t sweat it, because uBreak iFix had a warranty that covered any hardware malfunction. I was still assuming this was a hardware or installation issue, because anyone who knows me has realized at this point, that I do not actually have large or animal-like hands. My ring size is five. 

However, the gentleman behind the counter didn’t see it this way. “This is physical damage,” he told me. 

“But, how could I have done that to my phone?” I parried. 

“I don’t know what you did,” he replied. 

“But are you sure it wasn’t some kind of installation error? Look at how the screen is coming up on the side.” 

He retorted something about how uBreak weBreak doesn’t use adhesives, and I realized there was nothing I could do. My face hot, I left. 

With my heart still full with the hope of having my phone repaired, I sent it to Samsung, who promptly sent it back with a note that said it was “not economically fixable.”  

For those readers still hoping for a happy ending, alas, it has been four months, and I am typing this article on my old iPhone.  

Silver linings, though. It was fun while it lasted, especially with a certain device called the Oculus VR. If you don’t keep up with tech, I’ll summarize: The VR is the huge, ridiculous headset people put on their faces while stumbling around yelling at things that don’t exist. 

And it is awesome. 

When you put on the VR, if it does not make you sick, you are transported into another world. We put it on my friend’s five-year-old, and I have never seen a child so excited. 

Oculus was purchased by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, in 2014.  In 2015, Oculus released the Samsung Gear VR.  The Gear VR pairs with Samsung phones and contains an app store.  The first thing I did was explore the free apps that came with the device.  In the startup media, there was an animated video.  It contained 3D content, of which my favorite was an origami T-rex that bounced around the scene.  That was also my friend’s child’s favorite part, so any assumptions you might make about my maturity are probably accurate.  

After going through a lame roller coaster video, an app called Face Your Fears caught my attention immediately.  This was by far the coolest experience I had with the VR.  This app takes you through stories that force you to face situations of which people are typically afraid (heights, spiders, being buried alive, etc.).  I watched the heights video, and it was superb.  I found myself at the top of a skyscraper with the world ending around me.  I was picked up by a giant robot and subsequently dropped, where I fell all the way to the ground.  Then, an alien ship sucked me, via force field, into its bowels.  Riveting!  

I could not prepare myself, however, for what was to follow the scary heights video.  The next Face Your Fears story had three parts.  I’ll describe the first and leave the rest for your exploration.  

Open scene.  You are in bed in a children’s room.  The room is dark except for a bedside lamp on a table.  You start to hear weird noises.  When you turn your head from side to side, you are able to look around and see that you are alone, but the closet door in front of you is cracked open.  

You might look up, and if you do, you would see that there is a large vent area above your bookcase that is open.  After a few minutes, you look up and see a small crouching figure with red, glaring eyes.  It is a small boy with an evil looking face, and when you spy him, he scurries away.  

You begin in earnest turning your head from side to side, trying to make sure he hasn’t appeared somewhere else in the room.  You hear a commotion in the bathroom, which is a slightly open door to your left, and when you look, the thin, mostly naked figure is attacking something with scissors in there.  The last thing you see before he vanishes again is him glaring at you with his beady, red eyes through the bathroom door.  

He makes a few more appearances, once behind a table on one side of your room.  Each time you get a glimpse of him, you jump, unknowingly looking like a complete fool to anyone in reality who doesn’t have a VR headset on.

The story culminates when you finally look to the right side of your bed, seeing him standing mere inches from you.  He reaches over and turns off your lamp before disappearing again.  The next time you look over, he’s on the bed next to you, and jumps forward.  This is the point where most people scream and rip the headset off their faces.  

Seeing that story in a movie might be scary to some, but the VR takes it to another level.  When you have the headset on, you are completely immersed in what is happening on the screen.  

There is much that can be done with the VR.  Something I wanted to try before my phone went caput was playing Minecraft with a friend.  Minecraft, which was covered in a previous article, is already a very immersive game, so playing on the VR would probably be amazing.  

Some have reported getting motion sick when using the VR.  I usually am the first of my friends to get motion sick when watching certain movies or playing games, but I didn’t have a problem with the VR.  That being said, I didn’t wear it for long periods of time, so use caution if you purchase one.  Make sure to take breaks when needed.  

If you have a VR, tell us about your experience! Go to validitymag.com or our Facebook page and leave us a comment.  

In a future article, I’ll discuss what can be done with the Oculus that connects to a computer rather than a smartphone.  Stay tuned.

Cody Newbold currently works for a computer engineering firm in Franklin and has been a Validity contributor since 2011.

Becky Jane Newbold

About Becky Jane Newbold

Becky Jane Newbold thrives on new experiences and is always on the lookout for new stories to tell. Whether she is riding her motorcycle, photographing wildlife attracted to her garden, creating original works of art or enjoying home-cooked meals with her family, Becky Jane’s passion is staying current with fresh, innovative ideas. Raised in the newspaper industry, she is committed to truth in media. See more at https://validitymag.com

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