Eyes-on exclusive: Qantas and Samsung partner in a VR first

With Qantas and Samsung Australia’s recent announcement to bring selected Qantas First customers and First Class lounges a virtual reality entertainment experience, we visited Qantas’s Alexandria facility to test it out.

The system included Samsung’s Gear VR headset, equipped with a Samsung Note 4, along with a set of wired headphones and some specialised video content. Users will also be able to connect headphones wirelessly, via Bluetooth.

I watched a number of 3D movie previews, such as the latest Hobbit, Interstellar and Godzilla, and was able to select between different virtual ‘theatres’ ranging from a conventional (and empty) movie cinema, a home theatre and even on the moon. The 3D effect was surprisingly good, and quite easy to spot.

The best setting for movie watching was the virtual mode, which consisted of the ‘screen’ floating in black space. Compared to watching a film in a first class seat, which has a 17 inch display, the virtual version is considerably larger, and with headphones on, certainly more immersive.

I also enjoyed the virtual tour of what appeared to be a river in the National Park in Kakadu.

It started with me sitting at the bow of a boat as it made its way along a river, and I could scan both shorelines and look for crocks as the boat moved along. Then I found myself overlooking a vista, which was quite beautiful in itself, but when turning 180 degrees behind me, found an entirely different setting, including a waterfall and some stunning still pools.

That’s the beauty of a 360 degree world, there’s so much more to take in, compared to a conventional video.

I also watched a Sydney bridge climb video, which is a great way to attract tourists who might be considering the experience.

It consisted of three different viewing points, at different parts of the bridge, the best being right at the top of course. Compared to another Sydney bridge climb demo that I’d seen, resolution and clarity were quite good and there were no perceptible stitching issues, where the ‘edges’ of the videos that are joined together are not quite lined up.

Overall, I actually, genuinely, enjoyed my virtual tours, and the NT video in particular, made me want to hop on plane and pay it a visit, which is undoubtedly a good thing for Qantas and NT Tourism.

We don't have an image of the Kakadu tour in VR, but here's one Jaunt has previously made showing Paul McCartney live. Each image is for each eye, meaning you see it in 3D.

While it remains to be seen just how long people will be willing to wear the Gear VR before it becomes uncomfortable, it will undoubtedly be an interesting way to kill time on a long flight, and the system’s battery life should be long enought provide plenty of movie watching time.

Still, apart from looking a little silly, I’d be more than happy to be handed one to watch on my next Qantas flight.