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London commuters escape reality with VR headsets

London commuters escape reality with VR headsets

A group of commuters have been spending their rail journey to work as if they were holidaying in Australia instead.

Passengers aboard services from Oxford to London were given virtual reality (VR) headsets to help them escape the freezing temperatures of the UK.

Instead, they had the sensation of being in the much warmer climate of Australia, where they were treated to a number of experiences.

These included swimming with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef, cycling through the Rottnest Island nature reserve and seeing quokkas in the wild.

Quokkas were undoubtedly chosen as these furry marsupials have been named the happiest animals in the world.

It was all down to Tourism Western Australia, which organised the stunt to coincide with the launch of new non-stop flights from the UK to Australia.

The headsets were handed out by a woman wearing a wetsuit and carrying a surfboard, which is certainly an unusual sight on the London commute.

While the VR headsets were a temporary measure, it has been suggested that positive feedback means they could be rolled out on other rail services.

Dr Darrel Greenhill from the Department of Networks and Digital Media at Kingston University said: “We’re just getting started in terms of what is possible for virtual reality.

“I would imagine we will start to see VR being used much more widely over the next few years.

“I don’t think it will be long before commuters using VR becomes a commonplace reality – in some ways it’s surprising more people aren’t doing it already."

Eurostar launched a VR headset service last year, allowing passengers to see creatures in the sea as they travelled, so the move is not unprecedented.

Dr Greenhill added: "The VR experience could be specifically designed to take the user away from the drudgery of the daily commute.

“There are so many possibilities for this technology - visiting a place you’ve never been, games, educational purposes or even doing your shopping virtually.

“And augmented reality could be an alternative to virtual reality for commuters, as it is less intrusive and you can see what’s going on around you at the same time.”

In the meantime, most commuters will have to make do with a set of headphones or a book to transport themselves elsewhere.

If you’d like to escape the rail commute, swap your season ticket for a coach travel pass with Kings Ferry.


Photo credit: iStock/g-stockstudio

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