Samsung's VR bungee jump, like most VR, is more effective than you'd think

Our frail human brains are so easily fooled. In this case, fooled into thinking you're falling into a volcano. Cheers Samsung.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read

VR may be expensive, and the hardware clunky and unattractive, but every time I don one of those boxy headsets I get a glimpse at the technology's potential. Today I was treated to another peek at what virtual reality can do, this time at the IFA tech trade show in Berlin.

Before Samsung will strap me into its bungee jump simulator, there's a waiver to be signed. It's on a Galaxy tablet, naturally. Having ticked many boxes and offered up my stylus-doodled John Hancock, I'm fitted into a chunky harness.

There are lots of straps and carabiners, so many that I couldn't possibly tell if one were left fatally unclasped. Then I'm led up to a tall platform from which dangle three sets of stretchy cord. It looks a bit like a high-tech gallows, decked out in the trendy minimalist white that an evil world-dominating corporation might choose for disposing of the non-compliant. Next the Gear VR headset is fitted, and I'm immersed in Samsung's virtual world -- in this case several hundred imaginary feet over the mouth of a pretend volcano. Seconds later I'm free-falling, and an involuntary (but thankfully not too humiliating) whoop escapes my lungs.

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In reality I've only dropped a few feet. The resolution of the tiny headset screens isn't that impressive, and I recall seeing more convincing lava on the PlayStation 2. Yet, as with almost every VR experience I've had, I'm amazed at how my brain will fill in the blanks. Perhaps it's the one-to-one movement and the total lack of lag when I wiggle my head, but whatever it is, something about VR is sufficient to fool you completely, even if it's just for a moment. Just as with the vertigo simulator or the static rollercoaster, this bungee jump VR gave me a genuine, albeit brief, thrill.

Virtual reality has a mountain to climb if it wants to be part of our everyday lives, and there's no clear path to mainstream adoption of the technology. What's evident though is that VR has to be experienced to generate any excitement around its potential. Samsung's done a decent job of getting the VR message out there, and it's largely through these large-scale attractions -- Galaxy Gear-powered virtual rollercoasters for instance, installed in shopping centres to give ordinary consumers a try.

Few companies have the resources to push untested tech with such enthusiasm though, and I can easily imagine a future in which a lack of public interest in VR sees it fading once more into obscurity, its potential forever untapped. My latest experience with the technology was yet again better than expected. Now let's see if Samsung, HTC, Facebook and all the other tech giants invested in VR can do better than better than expected.

Click here for the rest of our IFA coverage.