No one can see their hands, but everyone wants to.
At least, that's the impression staffers at The Huffington Post left after they spent some time with Gear VR, the new virtual reality headset launching Friday from Samsung. (You can get it for $99.99 on Samsung.com, Amazon and Bestbuy.com.) It's probably the best experience normal consumers like you and me can have with virtual reality this holiday season -- even if it requires specific Samsung smartphones to work -- but it's not necessarily what our crew of VR newbies had in mind.
The headset is comfortable and easy to use. Most HuffPost testers -- new to VR -- were blown away by the visuals when we exposed them to an alien environment in Oculus 360 Photos, an app you can download and use with Gear VR. But they were disappointed that they couldn't move around and interact with the objects in front of them by reaching out to touch them with their hands.
In a sense, a lot of what we call virtual reality today isn't that at all -- rather, Gear VR and other platforms, like the budget-friendly Google Cardboard, offer a wealth of static environments and videos that you can occupy but not affect. You can't reach out with your hand and flip a switch.
It's a "look but don't touch" experience, but it's an oftentimes impressive one.
Here's how our staffers responded to"Neon Buddha," a virtual environment created by Miksim Loginov -- keep in mind that all of these photos are candid and that our test subjects (including me, at the bottom) only spent time in one app out of the many that are available: