I took my Oculus Rift to work last week. My job has nothing to do with VR or games. I just wanted to share some fun tech and see everyone’s reactions.

My own inaugural experience with VR was pretty intense. For several weeks after my dev kit arrived, even the slightest conversational prompt from an unsuspecting coworker would launch me into a fit of enthusiastic blathering about VR and its phenomenal potential as a creative medium. I wouldn’t stop until my subconscious mind detected the incessant drone of my own voice, and then I’d try to qualify everything I’d just said with a dismissive, “…but that’s probably just my reaction. I don’t want to oversell it.”

Turns out, the Oculus isn’t easy to oversell. Everyone who tried it was pretty well blown away. What’s more, I found that there are three first reactions that nearly everyone shares.

“This is awesome!”

This always comes first. It varies by degree. Some people just aren’t into technology, after all. But for the vast majority of people, the experience far exceeds their expectations.

I work with a former U.S. Army tank commander who has trained using military VR systems. I think he was ready to be underwhelmed. When he finally took his turn with the Oculus… well, let’s just say I can’t repeat his exclamation in mixed company.

“Where’s my body?” or “Is that me?”

This one varies depending on which game or experience you try. Some demos give you a virtual body that’s pretty much guaranteed to look nothing like your real body. Others seat you in an empty chair or leave you floating, phantom-like, at approximate eye-level. In both cases, there’s a strange moment where our brain tries to re-orient itself in virtual space, then balks at the sudden change in (or absence of) bodily presence.

“I want to touch it!”

A word of advice: The first time you try a VR headset, clear your desk. Move your laptop or monitor. Move all drinks and breakables out of arms reach. If possible, back away from the desk or table; your knuckles will thank you for it.

Limited as it is, the experience offered by the Oculus Rift is deeply immersive. While wearing the device, the stereoscopic display and smooth head tracking create a strong sense sense of space and physical presence. Our other senses naturally try to follow, and that leads many people to reach out towards the virtual objects they’re seeing.

Which, in turn, leads to punched laptops, spilled drinks, and knuckles rapped hard on desktops.

So then, how did you react to your first VR experience? Was there anything not in my top three list? Either way, leave a comment below!

The banner image above is an altered version of a photo by Isriya Paireepairit and is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
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