Please keep your virtual reality off the T
The future has arrived, which means you may be seeing more people wearing virtual reality devices strapped to their faces while riding the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s buses and trains.
But T officials said Friday that securing those goggles to your head while commuting might not be in riders’ best interests.
“It’s not advisable,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in an e-mail. “The MBTA and Transit Police remind customers of the importance of being aware of their surroundings at all times.”
The T’s statement this week was in response to a video posted to Facebook, and then later to Reddit, that appears to show a man playing a virtual reality video game while riding an MBTA Green Line trolley.
In the video, the man’s face is completely covered by the headset, obscuring his view of what’s happening around him. He is holding a video controller to play the game. He can be seen reacting — and at times jumping out of his seat — at the sight of the events taking place in the game.
Neil Lindquist, who took the original video and shared it on his Facebook page, said the man was “checked out.”
“He was just not there,” he said, adding that the man was sitting, and then standing, and moving around as he played the game. “You see all types of people on the T. But it never fails to surprise.”
Lindquist said the person in the video — who later came forward as Ryan Deame — contacted him after it went semi-viral, and he offered to take it down. But Deame, he said, was OK with Lindquist leaving it online.
As one person pointed out on the Reddit discussion thread, where the video was shared, it “seems like a really easy target to get robbed.”
That’s exactly what T officials and police are hoping to avoid.
A Boston police officer, who also wasn’t too keen on the video of the man distracted by his Virtual Reality experience, called the game enthusiast a “soft target.”
“The EXACT OPPOSITE of being aware of your surroundings,” said Sergeant Luke Taxter on Twitter.
Deame said in a telephone interview that he uses virtual reality to escape the anxiety that comes with riding public transit. He said he was dismayed by police and MBTA officials saying it shouldn’t be used while riding the trains.
“This technology isn’t a bad thing. It’s a way to change our reality in a fundamental way,” he said. “It’s a tool that should be embraced and not looked down upon.”