Digital Media

Watch 'The Lion King' musical in VR

Your latest virtual-reality-powered journey takes you center-stage (and backstage!) for one of Broadway's most beloved shows.

VR is getting interesting.

Starting tomorrow, you'll be able to buy the Samsung Gear VR headset for $99, a product that has the full weight of Facebook, Oculus and Samsung behind it.

In the meantime, other companies are testing the VR-media waters in interesting ways. Last month, The New York Times released a short documentary shot entirely in 360-degree virtual reality. And earlier this week, Disney released a VR-friendly clip from the Broadway musical "The Lion King."

circle-of-life-360.jpg
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Actually, it's more than a clip -- it's the entire opening number, "The Circle of Life." You're not just viewing it from the audience perspective, either -- you're actually onstage, right next to the actors and "animals." Sometimes you're also above the stage (in a rather dizzying perspective) and occasionally even backstage. Needless to say, a regular ticket-holder doesn't get seats like these.

It's pretty amazing.

You can view a click-and-drag version in your browser, but this is much better experienced using Google Cardboard or a similar VR viewer. (I watched it using a Homido headset.) You'll also need an Android smartphone, because the clip is delivered via YouTube -- and the iOS version doesn't yet support Cardboard. (You can still watch the tap-and-drag version, at least.)

All you do is fire up the YouTube app, head to the "Circle of Life in 360" video, play it and then tap the Cardboard icon. Now drop your phone into your VR headset and prepare to enjoy the show -- no tickets, no standing in line, no straining to view from the back row.

In the future, we might all go to theater without actually going to the theater.