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If You've Never Tried Virtual Reality, Here's What You Need to Know

To paraphrase "The Matrix," no one can be told what virtual reality is. But no harm in trying, right?

Brett Garling for Re/code

If some of the ideas floated in Re/code’s feature story today about the “VR Bus” sound strange or silly, you’re not alone.

Most people still haven’t had a chance to try the latest developments in virtual reality technology. “The Matrix” was heavily referenced in a talk about VR at Facebook’s recent developer conference, but there’s one quote from the film that feels especially relevant to the current state of the technology:

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is,” Morpheus intones to Neo. “You have to see it for yourself.”

I’ve lost count of the number of virtual reality demos I’ve tried (though I would estimate it’s north of 40), which puts me in a minority of a minority. Trying to explain these experiences, and how and why some are better than others, to someone who hasn’t tasted the red pill is a great way to come off as an inarticulate dork. Believe me, I speak from experience.

Here, then, are two earnest stabs at raising general understanding of what virtual reality is, today, for those who have never experienced it. The first is a short video explaining in simple terms how differences among the several headsets headed to market may change what you see:

And the second is a half-hour podcast-style discussion, which you can stream in your browser or download here, between my colleague Kurt Wagner and myself. In it, we try to interpret the big picture of virtual reality, and why so many big companies, including Oculus VR owner Facebook, have taken an interest in it:

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