Virtual reality is in its early years, but Samsung has taken a step that improves its likelihood of becoming an everyday tool — a campaign that will raise the parent-child bedtime story time to a higher level.
Samsung Electronics and BBH London have launched a live VR storytelling app known as Bedtime VR Stories. The app is designed to allow parents and kids to read together inside a virtual world when they are not able to be together in real time.
The parent and the child wear VR headsets and talk to one another inside the imaginary world. They can even see a version of each other in the virtual world as they read the story together. According to Tim Nudd, reporting for AdWeek, the app uses VR and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.
The premiere story is entitled "The Most Wonderful Place to Be." It puts the parent and child on a magical bed, lasts five minutes, and takes them on a trip to the Arctic, a prehistoric world, and outer space. In each location, the parent and child meet a penguin, a dinosaur, and a robot.
Nudd says there will be critics who believe that virtual reality is never a replacement for face-to-face bonding between parents and their children. But for military families, parents on business trips, and parents who have a long day at the office, VR is probably more fun than a chaotic Skype session.
The prototype is being tested now in the UK. It is a part of a global initiative known as Launching People, which Samsung says is designed to help customers reach their potential and make meaningful change by using Samsung technology.
BBH London says the idea resulted from the discovery that one-third of parents cannot be with their children at bedtime.
Ian Hardy of MobileSyrup says many mobile manufacturers have adopted the new VR technologies, including LG, HTC, and Samsung with Facebook's Oculus. But Hardy says, in his opinion, the technology has two major drawbacks. First, exposing children to such stimulating technology at bedtime could make it difficult for them to quiet down and go to sleep.
He adds that connecting to a parent who is away from home is an amazing experience, but for some kids that might be followed by a letdown when the VR ends.
Samsung is not suggesting that parents shift to virtual parenting, writes Stuart Dredge of The Guardian. The idea is for traveling parents or moms and dads who live somewhere else to have a way to join their children by way of a bedtime story.
"Parents will be able to tell their children a bedtime story like no other with both parent and child transported to far flung worlds and galaxies, interacting with dinosaurs, arctic animals and robots," is how Samsung explains it.
Drawbacks to the technology could include the need for the parent to have a Gear VR headset in their luggage, ensuring that the child has a Google Cardboard headset, and the ongoing resistance to encouraging kids to use VR headsets. In fact, Samsung announced in 2014 that Gear VR "is not recommended for use by children." In this announcement by the company, children were defined as young people under the age of 13.
Devindra Hardawar, reporting for Engadget, says another obstacle, which he discovered after testing the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive for several weeks, was that he had a hard time getting to sleep. He continues by assuming this is not a side effect that parents would welcome.