Roses are red, you're feeling blue, 'cos no one wants to watch VR telly with you
A solution! You can now invite your equally sad mates
It's a question that has long concerned us all: when you're at home watching TV on your VR headset, how do you avoid that sense that if someone looked in the window, you might appear to be the saddest individual on the planet?
Well, worry no longer because Hulu has taken up Mark Zuckerberg's widely mocked offer of "social VR" APIs and added the ability for you and your friends to watch TV together – almost like they were there in real life.
Pushing its new Hulu app on the Samsung Gear VR headset – the working man's VR solution – the video company highlights the joys of watching TV on your couch while your friends hover as discombobulated generic blue heads near to you.
It is amazing. We do have two questions though:
- Why not get a life and have your friends actually come over to your house to watch TV rather than strap a tiny mobile screen two inches from your face?
- And second, is the system really as smooth as the video suggests?
As to the first, well, in a world where "digital natives" literally sit next to one another and text each other rather than use their mouths and voices, we are just going to accept that virtual friends is a thing done out of choice rather than desperation.
That doesn't escape the fact, however, that having a screen that close to your face for long periods of time is not a good idea. The resolution on even the latest phones still isn't there and the light causes eyestrain. Manufacturers typically suggest breaks every 15 minutes, so watching TV and movies together is pushing your luck.
And, of course, you will need to plug the phone in to keep it powered that long. And probably have to come up with some kind of cooling system to stop it from over-heating. So some pretty big issues already. However, we must admit that watching shows in different VR locations can be fun – like the moon cinema. And Hulu has some new locations – like on a beach and in a penthouse suite.
To the more important aspect: how do you get it to work?
The video shows someone looking across to see their friend on the couch next to them (well, their head floating above it, really).
But based on the system (Coordinated App Launch API) outlined by Oculus late last year, getting your friends into the same VR app is not like real life. There's no knock on the door, pausing the show, letting them in and settling down.
Instead, you have to all meet up in Oculus Rooms and then go into the same app together. Which is equivalent to everyone having to meet up outside the same house and go in together, with the door locked behind you. Turn up late, and you're not getting in.
In short – and we can't stress this enough – for some time it is going to be better for everyone if you consider physically moving around and talking to friends in the real world – even when doing something as pedestrian as sitting on a couch watching the same TV show. ®