What it is: Samsung sells an inexpensive Gear VR headset that turns a Samsung smartphone into a virtual reality headset.
Virtual reality headsets cost too much, typically costing $300 or more without offering a clear cut reason for buying and using one other than casual games. Samsung is trying to offer a much less expensive headset (around $100) that turns a Samsung smartphone into a headset. Of course, this still has the problem of finding a use for this technology. Even a favorable article at CNet says such a low-cost headset could get more people to try virtual reality, but concludes that there’s still little reason to strap a headset to your face. If people had to strap a headset to their face every time they wanted to use a smartphone, how many people would be using smartphones today?
One problem with Vr headsets is that they cost too much. A second problem is that there’s no compelling use for them. A third problem is that you have to take the time to strap and unstrap the device from your face every time you want to use it. That keeps VR headsets from being used as easily as a smartphone or tablet. in all situations.
So that’s where VR headsets could find a purpose. Because VR headsets take time to put on and take off, and because they isolate the user from the outside world, perhaps one compelling use for VR headsets would be reading ebooks.
When you read a book, you generally isolate yourself from others. If you want to read in bed but your partner wants to sleep, it’s hard to avoid shining light strong enough to read but weak enough not to wake your partner. Instead, what about strapping a VR headset to your face to let you read in the dark without disturbing anyone else?
To turn pages in a netbook, you could tap the side of the VR headset. Now you can happily read an ebook within your own world while completely ignoring and disturbing anyone around you. One huge problem with VR headsets is that you can’t use them in public because they look weird and block out your view of your surroundings, but reading in bed is the perfect place to wear a VR headset.
Now imagine interactive, immersive ebooks that let you explore surroundings as you read. A non-fiction ebook on chemistry could let you manipulate molecules. A fiction ebook on romance could let you view artwork of the novel’s characters and locations. Such an immersive experience would be perfect for reading because reading is inherently an isolating experience anyway.
While most VR headset makers are focusing on games, these games are relatively weak compared to the far more interesting video games available for computers or game consoles. Perhaps VR headset makers should be focusing on ebook reading as well. Although not as many people read, ebook reading is one experience that VR headsets could greatly enhance and give people one more reason to buy, wear, and use a VR headset.
If you’re an avid reader, a VR headset for ebooks could convince you to try and eventually buy a VR headset. Just the prospect of playing video games won’t be enough. VR headsets need to find other compelling reasons for people to use them and ebook reading could be one of those additional reasons.