Remember the “Be Like Mike” commercial from the 1990s? It featured Michael Jordan doing all sorts of cool things, like playing basketball (naturally), hanging out with neighborhood kids, and, most importantly, drinking Gatorade (it was a Gatorade commercial, after all). The point was that Michael Jordan, at that time, was possibly the coolest person alive, and you could be like him by drinking Gatorade. At least I think that’s what they were getting at. At any rate, the catchy little ditty from the commercial is now stuck in my head on a loop, reminding me that I too wanted to be like Mike back in the day.
Lebron James is essentially today’s Michael Jordan – I mean, they even have the same jersey number, 23. “Be Like Lebron” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but regardless, sports fans from all over the country look up to him. Lebron James fans have an advantage that Michael Jordan fans didn’t, though. While the closest you could come to sharing Jordan’s experiences was drinking Gatorade and shooting some B-ball outside school, you can now experience a day in the life of Lebron as if you were living it yourself.
I’m talking about virtual reality, of course. Samsung recently debuted the new Oculus-powered Gear VR, and, along with it, a 12-minute film called Striving For Greatness, which you can download from the Oculus store or the Samsung Milk VR app. Produced by Felix & Paul Studios, it’s a 360-degree virtual reality experience that takes you through James’ daily training routine, or at least parts of it that can fit into 12 minutes. With your Gear VR, you can run through the streets of Cleveland right alongside King James, hit the gym with him, and even do yoga on the lawn. You may not be getting any physical benefit, but for those 12 minutes, you can visually experience what it’s like to be one of the most successful athletes in the world.
Virtual reality has been around for quite a while, but all of a sudden it seems to have burst into the mainstream. That’s the way new technology tends to be; you’ll hear about it for years as something that’s on the horizon, and then suddenly it’s everywhere. It’s become highly affordable – the Gear VR is only $100 – and now that it’s celebrity-endorsed, it’s officially left the realm of tech geeks only. It also appears that it’s becoming more reality-based. While it will always be a great tool for gaming and exploring the fantastical, it’s also allowing us to see through the eyes of others and share their experiences.
Which also makes it a great tool for training. Lots of people, myself included, learn much more effectively by doing instead of watching, and virtual reality allows us to do things before we actually do them, in a manner of speaking. Look at all the medical institutions that are using virtual reality to train novice surgeons, enabling them to go through the very real motions of performing a surgery before ever operating on an actual patient. The technology could be great for all sorts of workplace training. In fact, the theme of the recently aired Gear VR ad is “Let’s Go to Work,” and it shows James not only going through his own morning workout but apparently charging through the workplaces of others – offices, restaurant kitchens, etc. Does that mean, while we want to be like Lebron, Lebron actually wants to be like us? No. Not at all, I’m guessing – but it’s a nice thought.