Vaio, a spin-off from technology company Sony, is screening virtual reality (VR) movies in a theater in Tokyo, Japan starting July 2. The experience — reportedly the first for the country, says Kyodo News — will have movie watchers don VR headsets as they sit in a physical cinema space with others.
While going to the movies is a very social experience — VR is currently known for the opposite: players or viewers are strapped into devices that immerse them through sight and sound into another space. While movie theaters are certainly dark — you can hear someone laughing next to you, and see them out of the corner of your eye.
Putting VR experiences into shared spaces is still an experiment in and of itself. Movie theaters have been partnering with device makers to install VR arcades at locations around the country. In some cases, people can play with each other, but most can only really be experienced alone.
That's not to say that augmented reality (AR) and VR brands aren't pushing to create more social situations for their devices and content. Lenovo, for example, really expanded its Star Wars Jedi Challenges device to allow two players to engage in a lightsaber battle together, both able to see the AR light beams and hear the clashing sounds as they play.
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Most VR content, however, is meant to be watched alone. While there are VR films that have been made, they're watched on VR rigs and headsets, and you don't see a virtual avatar of a friend watching it with you.
The movie theater experience Vaio is launching will reportedly give headsets to viewers, but they'll listen to audio pushed through the entire theater. The first movies they plan to show are shorts including the anime series, "Neon Genesis Evangelion."