Disrupting children’s bedtimes? Most children are more than capable of doing that themselves, whether it’s noisy pillow fights, demands for a fourth snack / poo of the night, or 467 more questions about death.
They don’t need an app for it. Samsung has other ideas, however, having unveiled “the future of children’s bedtime” in the form of an app called Bedtime VR Stories that “combines the latest innovations in virtual reality with the power and importance of traditional storytelling”.
If that conjures up images of a dystopian future where parents ditch Gruffalo books and cuddles for headset-toting isolation… well, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.
Samsung isn’t suggesting (yet) that parents switch to virtual reality when they’re actually with their children at bedtime. Instead, it says Bedtime VR Stories is more for parents who aren’t at home – for example because they live somewhere else or are travelling for work.
The technology, which uses the company’s Gear VR headset, is being tested with families in the UK as a prototype.
“Parents will be able to tell their children a bedtime story like no other with both parent and child transported to far flung worlds and galaxies, interacting with dinosaurs, arctic animals and robots,” is how Samsung explains it.
“However far apart they are, parents will be able to share that all-important bedtime story with their child, using VR technology to connect them in the same virtual world. The child will even hear their parent reciting the story and be able to interact with their parent as though they are in the same room.”
Obstacles to the technology catching on include: the need for the parent to have a Gear VR headset with them, and the child to have a Google Cardboard headset; and an ongoing debate about whether children should be encouraged to use VR headsets at all.
In 2014, a Samsung executive told TrustedReviews that the Gear VR “is not recommended for use by children”, adding that this meant kids under the age of 13. While this does not apply to Google Cardboard specifically, parents may have similar concerns about its suitability.
Best of luck to any hoping their older teenager will join them for a pre-bedtime robots or dinosaurs story.