Tinder debuted its new ‘Multi-User Virtual Reality Headset’ at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the biggest electronics trade shows in the world, in Las Vegas this week.
If an online dating app releasing a “multi-user virtual reality headset” sounds curious, if not enticing, be forewarned that there is a catch. It is not really a virtual reality headset. In fact, it is about as far to the opposite of that as you could go.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 7, 2017
“It seems like everyone is launching a VR headset nowadays. As a tech company, we felt inspired to create one of our own,” Tinder explains in a blog post aptly titled “Tinder VR (LOL)” on its company website. “But here’s the thing: our mission has always been to get people together to have real experiences in the real world. So how do we reconcile the fact that VR is the antithesis of this?”
Their solution: “removing the V from VR.”
We’ll let them elaborate.
“We created our multi-user VR headset with the Tinder experience in mind,” the blog post continues. “Real people having a real experience, and like the app, it only works with a double opt-in.”
So, what happens when a couple straps on the Multi-User Virtual Reality Headset? In short, nothing. Or something amazing. The two people have to actually look each other in the eyes, without any filters or screens or lenses separating them.
It actually sounds kind of romantic in a way.
While there is a very “human” element to the anti-VR gag Tinder pulled, it is ultimately still a marketing gimmick. In a world where the virtual reality market is growing, a company like Tinder, which relies on people eventually making real life connections (or at least wanting to), may feel the pressure to remind people what it has to offer.
“Although the Tinder VR headset is only on display at our booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES)…the real-life experience of connecting with someone is always available on Tinder,” the blog post continues, before concluding with, “Welcome to the future. It’s all about human connection. Give it a try—you might enjoy it.”
— VRLA (@vrlosangeles) January 6, 2017
Tinder’s virtual reality gag was a big success at CES, according to the Hollywood Reporter which ran a review of the Tinder stunt with the headline “Tinder’s Prank VR Headset Is a Hit.” The Hollywood Reporter also noted that Tinder employees staffing the dating app’s booth at CES handed out cards that read “What you just experienced was human contact. We hope you enjoyed it.” as guests who had toyed with the fake virtual reality headsets left. It’s the small touches that count.
Not everyone thought it was cute, though. Saqib Shah at Digital Trends threw some shade on Tinder for perhaps getting on a bit of a high horse.
“Tinder may tout itself as a platform that’s all about the ‘human connection,’ but in actual fact its app is viewed by some as a mere numbers game,” Shah wrote. “Boiling down social relations to the simplest of gestures (Tinder pioneered the swipe-based interface) hardly seems like a way to cultivate connections.”
And then he told them how he really felt.
“Instead of encouraging the rest of us to get up off our backsides and go out and meet people, perhaps it should find a hollow headset of its own to stare into while it considers the real impact it’s had on dating culture.”
Shah did ultimately “digress” and acknowledge that Tinder’s virtual reality joke was all, ultimately, in good fun. But, wow, he got a little harsh there for a minute. He must be really into virtual reality or something.
The blog post about the virtual reality project on the Tinder website is still up and full of videos, pics, and some more commentary. Check it out.
[Featured Image by Charley Gallay/Getty Images]