Being a technology journalist means spending most of your life telling friends and family which smartphone they should buy next. Then there are the demands to fix everyone's email, the looks of bemusement when you try to show off a smartwatch and that weird moment when you just don't want to play video games anymore.
But every so often something truly amazing comes along. Something so innovative and so unlike anything anyone has seen before that it borders on magical. A product that drags us jaded tech hacks out of our futuristic bubble and drops us with a bang into the here-and-now. That's a very good thing because the here-and-now is where normal people are experiencing VR for the very first time − and they are being blown away by it.
At IBTimes UK we recently had the HTC Vive set up in a meeting room for a week with a full roster of virtual reality games to try out. While us tech journalists got a kick out of setting the whole thing up, then playing to check how this consumer version differs to the developer kit we played months ago, the rest of the office nearly lost their minds.
A love affair with virtual reality
The IBTimes UK love affair with Vive started slowly. A few curious glances into the meeting room as we set everything up; an office manager wondering why we needed the room for an entire week. As we were primed and ready to write reams about how it compares to Gear VR and Oculus Rift, a colleague admitted he wasn't quite sure what VR stood for. Perhaps the tech bubble we inhabit isn't as transparent as we thought. Most people's grasp of technology starts and ends with their smartphone; for these people VR, any VR, is something otherworldly.
Knowing full well how dull a video of us lot trying out Vive would look, pretending to get excited about something we've seen before, we recruited colleagues to try it out on camera. What began as a few timid requests to help us with a bit of nerdy filming ended with queues out of the door. Our geeky little review session had turned into a social event where many were trying a ground-breaking new technology for the very first time.
Every time the Vive headset was lifted, it revealed wide eyes and a beaming smile. Shock too, as players often got so caught up in a simple game of golf or tennis that they had completely lost track of where in the room they were facing.
Freaking out over Surgeon Simulator
Robbing the user of their hearing, sight and spacial awareness, you would expect VR to be a lonely way to game, but the opposite is true. As one player leapt into a virtual world, colleagues gathered at the windows and came in to take photos, record video and share this bizarre scene online. They were detached and isolated in a way only beaten by sleep, yet somehow they were also the centre of attention; the one we all watched intently and laughed along with as they freaked out over Surgeon Simulator.
Watching someone play a video game is fun enough, but watching someone experience something truly amazing for the first time is a very special moment indeed.
Living in the future
It reminded us that our job puts us, jaded or not, on the very bleeding edge of technology. We forget this all too often but this funny thing we call employment means we're almost literally living in the future, trying out tech weeks or even months before it goes on sale and perhaps in the case of Vive, years or even a decade, before it becomes mainstream.
Annual smartphone updates with minimal improvements and ever-increasing price tags have bored us all into a life of update cycles that convince us to part with £600 every 12 months to have the newest, thinnest and lightest version yet. But if we step back and spend a minute looking at the wider technology landscape, we see genuine innovation leaving our smartphones for dead.
Every new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy is a momentous occasion on the technology calendar, but VR and the Vive are something else. These aren't just annual launch dates to count down to the days to, these are landmark events on a 10-year calendar.