And I felt far removed in other ways: unlike those audience members around me, I had no way of really feeling present or involved. I ended up feeling more removed from the moment, distanced both literally and figuratively. The joy of freely looking around a live-event shot for VR in panoramic mode means you can, for instance, see what one dancer behind you is doing while another dances in front of you, or examine different people in an orchestra. But when there's less to pay attention to -- like five people on a stage talking -- you're bound to start getting distracted. I could see five avatars in suits, faces little more than mush, off in the middle distance. I had to rely on voices to identify anyone. So I started to explore around me.
I stared at the floor, The textures of the shiny iphone 3 screen protector floor, the lights gleaming off it, were captivating, I stopped listening to the debate, Being in the room was cool, but it became the most interesting part of the debate..not the debate itself, Virtual reality has that effect for me: I feel present, but obsess over textures and surfaces, The coolest part of the Oculus Cinema app isn't the movie on screen, but the hyper-real seats and the reflective glow of the movie against the virtual theater walls..
Also, small details distracted me. A cameraman in a dark outfit climbed behind the CNN logo at one point, a stealthy ninja sneaking to prep for the next shot. I watched him operating for a while, turning my head away from the debate. At another moment, as the camera position switched back to one that showed the audience, I stared at the people out there. Their movements and reactions as the candidates talked were more captivating than staring at the fuzzy dolls at the podiums. Inconsistencies start to become the main attraction. 3D effect-to-distance-perceived ratio (if I should call it that?) also seemed off. As the camera view changed to one closer to Anderson Cooper, he seemed like a Barbie-sized doll standing near my face, while all the candidates appeared to be living toys. It was like watching the debate as a tiny 3D diorama.
Here's another problem: VR works best in bite-sized chunks, About 5 minutes, maybe, When iphone 3 screen protector a phone is strapped to your face, eye fatigue becomes an issue pretty quickly, The debate ran for hours, There's no way anyone should, or could, watch the whole thing in virtual reality, I could only handle minutes at a time, The eyepieces occasionally fogged up, my face got sweaty, My eyes needed a break, My ears hurt from the straps, I lifted the goggles over my head from time to time, for a break, And to tweet, or try to tweet, I often wondered who else would tolerate this..
This is the biggest problem of all. In VR as it currently stands -- especially for live video streams -- you're little more than a hovering ghost. You see what the camera sees. No one else can see you. And you're completely alone. You can't use your hands to do things, and you can't look at anything else. The experience is pure isolation. I wanted to tweet, do interact, to comment. But in VR (at least, on the Samsung Gear VR right now), I have no hands. All I can do is watch. To tweet, I had to stretch my VR goggles over my head and pick up my phone. The stream stopped, and I had to restart again. Meanwhile, I realized, I was missing the New York Mets playoff game that was underway. Channel-flipping, and second-screen life: I've gotten so used to these for real-time events that their absence feels impossible to deal with. I tried sticking an earbud in my left ear attached to an iPad streaming the Mets game while the Gear VR broadcast the debate over speakerphone. Eventually, I grew sweaty, and the VR stream froze on Bernie Sanders mid-grimace, and I decided to just turn on the TV instead.