John Lewis shoppers get chance to experience virtual reality in-store

From today, those curious about virtual reality or looking for the perfect stocking filler are invited to experience the immersive power of Freefly VR on Level 5 of the flagship Oxford Street London store.

John Lewis is the first UK retail store to stock the wide field of view headset, exclusively for the next four weeks as well as JohnLewis.com.

Customers wearing the lightweight headset can enjoy a collection of virtual reality experiences developed by VR production company Rewind, running on a regular Samsung Note 4.

Demos includes a HD version of their Strictly Come Dancing 360 experience, where you get a front row seat for a dance spectacular; A virtual reality fast lap with former Stig Ben Collins, and stereoscopic 360 music video Stonemilker, an intimate musical experience by Icelandic singer Bjork.

Rewind co-founder Solomon Rogers believes the deal with John Lewis marks the start of new technology category in stores, serving to increase its appeal to mainstream audiences.

” The release of the Freefly in John Lewis stores this Christmas marks a true firing pistol moment for VR production, and the start of mass adoption outside of the pure PC gamer market,” said Solomon.  “Although the high profile gaming orientated VR headsets are coming out in Q1 2016, the Freefly VR headset has got a head start on them on price point, and ease of use as you can use any smartphone with it. By deploying and developing VR experiences for mobile use, we have access to the current two billion worldwide smartphone users.

Over the past year, Rewind has created VR content specifically for use on smartphone app stores for the likes of the BBC, Red Bull, Lexus and Björk. We see this market being the most influential in this early stage of the VR race.”

For the Proteus VR team, having the Freefly stocked in John Lewis is a symbolic milestone of a journey that began as a simple blog post.

“To be able to open people’s eyes to the immersive impact of virtual reality in such an established well known store is hugely exciting for us.” says Proteus VR Labs designer Mark Little.  He continued: “What makes this achievement even more remarkable was that this all began as a small commission from co-founder Jonathan who ran a large virtual reality Meetup group.

He wanted a simple VR adaptor for his Nexus 5 as part of an article to explore the potential of mobile phone powered virtual reality. We designed and prototyped the product and the results surprised us.  We shared his belief that such technology can offer an alternative to the more expensive dedicated VR headsets and so decided to produce a commercially viable headset that featured a huge field of view and supported a large range of phones.  Two years of R&D and constant product iterations later, we have a product we are extremely proud of and are delighted to give people the chance to try VR in the John Lewis Oxford Street store.”

Jonathan Tustain believes this is a turning point for virtual reality going mainstream saying, “Although we know how engaging and lifelike mobile virtual reality can be, our greatest challenge is educating the public.

Now people can experience it for themselves and we can’t wait to watch their reactions.”
Jonathan adds, “A common misperception is virtual reality is exclusively for gamers but the scope is far wider. We hope this partnership will highlight the fact that virtual reality is already transforming comedy, hard-hitting documentaries, simulation, education and relaxation. Apps like YouTube and Littlstar provide hundreds of hours of 360 degree videos and there is a plethora of titles on Google Play and the Apple App Store.”

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