Samsung Gear VR

Samsung is now selling virtual reality using an ostrich in a Gear VR

Samsung just concluded its Unpacked event and it was light on virtual reality news, but the company is making up for it with a Gear VR ad that’s… quite odd. If you can’t or don’t want to watch the video above, the joke is that an ostrich (which, you may recall, is a flightless bird) puts on a Gear VR headset and launches a flight simulator inside it, after which said ostrich is literally able (I think?) to begin soaring above its bemused companions. “We make what can’t be made, so you can do what can’t be done,” reads the tagline, which would also be a decent slogan for Aperture Science.

I could point out a various pedantic things about this video, like the fact that ostriches are probably unable to reach the Gear VR’s trackpad, or genuinely important ones, like the fact that we do VR a disservice by suggesting it’s interchangeable with real-world experience. But I’m too busy trying to figure out what that ostrich is seeing.

See, the Gear VR and similar headsets are built for creatures with front-facing eyes and binocular vision — the screen shows a separate image to each eye, putting wearers into a 3D world. Many birds have eyes on the side of their head, which, as far as I understand, trades this depth perception for a very wide field of view.

So what happens if you try to trick a bird’s super-wide-angle eyes with two overlapping images that are fairly close together? Would a real bird VR headset look like this joke concept from 2014? Would you just tilt a normal one so it fit squarely over one eye, simulating the experience of a one-eyed human in VR? Where does ostrich vision even fit on the bird-vision spectrum? Am I going to end up emailing an ornithologist to ask about bird VR for the sake of a throwaway two-minute commercial? Why are you torturing me like this, Samsung?

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