Oculus Rift and O2 Wear the Rose let us train with the England rugby team, you can too
When asked if you want to train with the England rugby team the second thought, after will I survive, is how? A few years of schoolboy rugby surely aren't enough to stand up to the nation's most finely tuned athletes? Before thinking too deeply and missing out, we agreed and were given a date to be at Twickenham and told to arrive with sports gear in the bag. Worrying.
On arrival we were met by England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, not someone we wanted to be tackled by, before being ushered forcefully off to the England changing room. Kit was laid out, in our case, at the seat of Mike Brown - man of the match in the last two England Six Nations games, no pressure then.
Once kitted we were told to stand before a coach who entered to rile us up. A lot of shouting later, both at us and as a huddled group, and we were taken out to face the paparazzi (read: dudes with cameras and high visibility jackets). We walked out of the tunnel right to the edge of the pitch. It was actually breath-taking - and that's without the thousands of people usually there to greet the England team.
Then we got down to it with an Oculus Rift headset and headphones. Suddenly, still pumped from the intro, we were on the field with the England rugby team. Looking around in the huddle the entire team was there talking about plays we were about to execute. Before we could take it all in we were running in a line with England's rugby greats.
We recieved the ball and couldn't help check about for a place to pass, even though we had no control over the pure video experience. Bam, we were tackled to the ground and actually couldn't help make a noise in the real world.
Next the ball was being kicked to us and as we looked up a little step to the right couldn't be resisted in the real world, again to no effect in the video experience. But the point was immersion. We were totally in that world with a 360-degree view of our surroundings.
We couldn't help ignore where we were supposed to look just to see if all the players were in character behind us - not one out of place.
When it came to removing the headset it felt like waking from a dream on a workday, we didn't want to stop. But while that was over the potential for future movie, gaming, training and fitness experiences was permanently placed in our minds. And this wasn't even the new HD version of Oculus Rift.
Then we had a mock television interview in which, as you can see in the video below, we were still reeling from the experience. And that's without even being really tackled. We have developed a new found respect for sportsmen doing interviews right after a game. For them and the makers of the Oculus Rift, of course.
If you want to "Wear the Rose" you can on its debut in the O2 blueroom at Twickenham Stadium for the England versus Wales match on Sunday 9 March. From April it will be available via Priority for O2 customers. Then it will be showcased in select O2 stores across the country from June, supporting England's tour of New Zealand this summer, and through O2 Touch Centres in July before a wider rugby club tour in the autumn.