We become the people in ‘WALL-E’ one VR massage chair at a time

Little by little, next thing you know you’re sitting in a massage chair, wearing an Oculus Rift, acting like you’re not in the middle of a crowded German trade-show floor. You can let yourself go for a few seconds at a time, and for a few seconds at a time, it kind of starts to work.

You vacillate between closing your eyes and keeping them open for the full effect. You know the demo is only a few minutes long, so you want to cram as much experience into your time as possible. There are, after all, only two chairs and a gaggle of curious show-goers queuing up in front of you at the Medisana booth, staring, but patiently waiting their turn.

It’s pretty pleasant, really, if you can get over the self-consciousness and façade of it all. Once you’ve calibrated the eye piece and chosen between genders of masseuses (of course), s/he greets you on a secluded French beach. Occasionally a seagull flies into frame. The white noise of the sea washes out the convention center din.

S/he walks behind you, though you couldn’t check if you wanted to — you’re seated in one of those big, expensive Sharper Image-style massage chairs. And besides, you’re straining yourself for calm. S/he tells you to breathe. Breathe. In and out. How much stress have you had in your life that you’ve completely forgotten to breathe? Life is strange. Not necessary VR-in-a-massage-chair-on-a-German-convention-center-floor strange, but strange nonetheless.

And for a moment, as you sink into the chair as s/he coaches you to, you think, maybe those people in Wall-E had it right. Maybe sucking down goo in one of those Matrix pods wouldn’t be so bad, after all. Maybe.

Then the foot rest lowers and the screen goes all white. Show’s over. Back to work.