In The Verge‘s preview of the commercial version of Gear VR, Ben Popper said he came away from his time with the device “in awe [and] excited for the future of this new artistic medium.” Samsung’s new 30-second ad for the Gear VR doesn’t convey this sense of excitement, but instead presents the device as just another screen for doing normal things on. It shows a succession of hands clipping their Galaxy smartphones into the $99 Gear VR, with unseen actors pulling on the goggles and then watching a movie, playing a video game, and hanging out underneath the International Space Station. Virtual reality is kind of geeky, says Samsung’s ad, but hey, you can still watch Kung Fu Panda on it.
Perhaps this is for the best. After all, virtual reality has been hyped time and time again, and it’s probably better that the technology’s latest iteration is presented as just another part of the normal entertainment ecosystem rather than some sort of transcendental digital experience. It’s difficult to explain how virtual reality really feels (see Samsung’s very stilted first ad for the Gear VR back in January), so maybe it makes more sense to present it as something familiar, and then let people find out how weird it really is on their own. The technology still has a long road to travel before it can truly be called “mainstream,” but with the Gear VR already listed as “sold out online” at Best Buy and “temporarily out of stock” at Amazon, perhaps we’re on the way.