Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Oh, here they come, all the daft accessories your VR headset doesn’t need

Oh, here they come, all the daft accessories your VR headset doesn’t need

The development of virtual reality products can’t only be about headsets; a successful product ecosystem must also have ancillary products. The smartphone needs headphones—previously the stylus. The technical term, one supposes, is “accessories.”

All of which is a very nice way of saying: as virtual reality becomes more of a thing, brace yourself for some stupid, stupid shit.

In that spirit, meet the Cybust, an $89 chunk of something or other upon which you can rest your VR headset and headphones. It’s a product so far ahead of it’s time that you will still not know what problem it is meant to solve in five to 10 years.

(Counterpoint: Polygon’s Ben Kuchera says he’s “impressed” by the Cybust. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

In search of answers, let us now turn to the Cybust’s promotional video, which promises that its shrunken head fits every VR headset and avoids tangled wires. The company has also suggested their device will make your headset “look like a million bucks.”

Seeing as that’s roughly what a VR headset costs these days, one would hope that it still looks like that once mounted upon a grey egg. Were this not to be the case, it would be the worst investment of money since Theranos.

embodies the strategy of marketing VR as a luxury product

While Cybust may not have tremendous utility as a physical object, it is nonetheless useful as a symbol of many of the issues surrounding the development of virtual reality technology. It embodies the strategy of marketing VR as a luxury product (as opposed to the low-tech Google Cardboard approach.) If your VR headset is as much a luxury accessory as it is a practical item—which is arguably the case in light of current screen resolutions—you might as well treat it like one. This is much like displaying a fancy watch collection; it doesn’t help tell time but it is of a piece with the whole undertaking.

It follows from this that VR ownership is somewhat performative. This is one of VR’s strange ironies: you are more cut off from the world in a headset than at a theater, yet you also put on more of a show for people around you. There are a series of aesthetic choices inherent in how one approaches VR. It is not—nor will it ever be—a purely technological proposition. Cybust, as a wholly aesthetic endeavor brings this tension to the surface, and for that we ought be grateful—though maybe not grateful to the tune of $89.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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