Inspect-a-Gadget: 360-Degree Video Viewer

By Sky Gidge, January 11, 2017

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Inspect-a-Gadget is a monthly segment where we feature a tech toy our editors have been playing with.

A sunlit curtain moves gently in the wind behind you as a girl-next-door type approaches from the front. “You worked really hard today,” she whispers. “Let me massage your shoulders.”

A glance down and the illusion is shattered: where your shoulders should be is a tabletop, the woman’s hands moving back-and-forth above it.

This simulated massage marks the humble beginnings of an in-home VR revolution, the 360-degree video downloaded through a free phone app.

Originally thought to be a joke, Google Cardboard proved in 2014 that all that was needed for a ‘virtual reality’ experience was lenses set in a smartphone-holding, cardboard visor.

With the introduction of ‘truer’ VR technology, which allows room-wide movement and real-time interaction, the content viewable through Google Cardboard is now rightly referred to as 360-degree video, though that hasn’t slowed down the shipping of millions of units.

Now, several Shenzhen-area companies are trying to outdo the big G.

We got our hands on UCVR’s Zombies Cat headset. The frame is made from lightweight plastic, and the band that fastens around your head uses a special Velcro that doesn’t stick to hair. Comfortable padding also lines the places where your face meets the hardware.

The Zombie Cat’s sliding, spring-loaded grips max out at iPhone 6 Plus-sized phones, but, surprisingly, bigger doesn’t mean better; smaller-sized phones deliver the same experience, albeit with some light leakage from the real world.

Until prices on newer VR technology drop (the HTC Vive costs RMB6,888), headsets used to view 360-degree videos are an excellent way to glimpse the experience still just over the virtual horizon.

For who: the VR curious
How much: Approx. RMB200
Sold where: taobao.com, jd.com

Click here for more Inspect-a-Gadget.

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