“After we found out I was five weeks pregnant with our third child, we watched our baby grow, found out he was a boy and dreamed about what the future may hold,” Alison Larke said, according to a news release. “Then at 30 weeks pregnant, Jace’s contract roster was confirmed and it was more than likely he would miss the birth of our baby, pending a miracle.”
That miracle, she added, is “exactly what we got.”
In need of a steady paycheck, Jason Larke was afraid he might lose his job if he asked for time off. So he didn’t. But the Australian couple answered a casting call from Samsung to use the company’s new virtual reality headset, known as the Gear VR.
As Alison Larke went into labor, Samsung techies descended upon Chinchilla and placed her husband in a cramped, windowless room, where they set up “the world’s first live virtual reality birth,” according to a company news release touting the “World-first Live Streaming Virtual Reality Birth.”
On the other side of the country, in a room at the St. John of God Mount Lawley Hospital, Samsung set up a 360-degree camera and a 4G WiFi uplink to live-stream the birth for the excited father, who was wearing the Gear VR headset, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Both parents were outfitted with earpieces and microphones so they could talk to each other during the birthing process.
The birth appears to have unfolded without a medical or digital hitch, which was good news for the Larkes — and for Samsung.
“Healthy boy, healthy mom,” Jason Larke said not long after he’d removed his headset. “I got to see it. Nothing better than seeing your baby for the first time.”
His wife told the Morning Herald that being able to hear her husband’s encouragement during the birth was “amazing.”
“To me, that camera was Jace, and that was my link to him in Queensland to share that special moment,” she said.
She also noted that the event was marked by a “touch of sadness.”
That doesn’t surprise Monash University technology theorist Jon McCormack, who cautions against promoting virtual experiences as a substitute for reality.
“In one way, it might be a beautiful, emotional experience during the event,” he told the Morning Herald. “But at the same time, afterwards, you realize you can’t touch the baby, can’t hold it, can’t nurse it or anything like that, and those are key, important things.”
One week after his wife’s birth, Jason Larke returned home, where, with Samsung cameras rolling, he met his son — “for the second time,” the company noted.
Arno Lenior, Samsung’s marketing chief, called the virtual birth “true innovation” and said the experience demonstrates how technology can be used to address people’s challenges.
“This is what technology is all about; enabling human experiences,” he said.