Over the past several years, it’s unlikely that you’ve missed all the buzz over virtual reality headsets. Virtual reality (VR) headsets became highly sought after and hugely popular. Over time, some headsets became affordable for more people, while more VR content was released.
In recent months, a lot of the fuss over VR has died down. It seems as though people simply aren’t talking about it as much as they once were. It feels a bit like the novelty has worn off for some.
But even if VR isn’t hyped as often as it was not too long ago, it’s still making advancements, and it has a lot to offer. Less than a week ago, Qualcomm announced their newest VR headset. And near the end of last year, Oculus Go was announced, a different kind of headset that could be coming very soon.
Since we’re still early in the new year, now is a good time to take a look at what you can find in the world of VR in 2018. Read on for some basics, some tech options, and plenty of fun suggestions!
What is VR?
When I talk about VR in this article, I’m talking about the current VR technology accessed through the use of a VR headset. While wearing a headset, wearers are given the impression they are in another world. Users can turn around and see content in every direction, including above and below them.
Some people find the difference between VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) a little confusing. With virtual reality, you’re immersed in a completely separate world. You interact with content that is not connected to your own real-world visuals.
With augmented reality, on the other hand, objects are placed in your actual surroundings. You can look at something that is actually right in front of you, and augmented reality will work within those visuals to add content into what you’re really seeing. (Pokemon Go is an example of AR—when you used your camera to capture what you were really seeing while catching Pokemon, you were using AR.)
Since virtual reality doesn’t include visuals from your real surroundings, it offers something much more clearly separated from your real life.
VR headsets let wearers enter a different world. After placing a device in the headset (or plugging a tethered headset into a computer or gaming console), the headset is worn to fill a person’s vision with whatever content they choose.
Many headsets were very expensive when VR was first popular. They were sometimes fairly basic, as well. Over time, more headsets came out that were inexpensive, and other headsets added more features.
Keep in mind that if you buy a cheaper headset, you’re likely not getting as nice of features as you might with a pricier option. Cheaper options also might not be as comfortable or durable.
Here are just a few of the headsets you can consider when deciding whether to enjoy VR.
Popular (pricier) headsets:
- Samsung Gear VR with Controller ($72.98)
- PlayStation VR (price varies)
- HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System ($599)
- Oculus Rift + Touch Virtual Reality System ($399)
What can VR be used for?
VR isn’t just for playing games (though VR gaming is great)! VR can be fun in a lot of different ways. Here are some ways to use VR, including for education and entertainment (and yes, that includes gaming).
With VR, there are opportunities for learning. There are plenty of apps that offer educational experiences. Depending on which device you’re using, you might be able to learn a wide variety of things!
Practice public speaking—VirtualSpeech lets you work on your communication skills in private. You can learn how to become a better communicator, plus you can practice by being placed in different surroundings. For instance, you can give a presentation standing on a stage in front of a virtual crowd.
Look through the human brain or look around Stonehenge—Unimersiv offers many different educational apps, including more than just a tour of the brain or Stonehenge. You can also do things like check out ancient Rome and the International Space Station.
Learn a new language—With an app like House of Languages, you can learn another language in a different way. You can learn English, German, or Spanish while actually looking at the objects that correspond to the words you’re learning and playing minigames.
Go inside the human body—The Body VR is one app that lets you learn about what goes on in the human body. You can learn about things like blood cells and viruses.
Make your way through the solar system—Titans of Space is just one app that teaches about the solar system. You can move through space, checking out planets and certain stars, all while learning facts about what you’re seeing.
Surround yourself with Discovery content—You can view VR content from Discovery, which lets you see places all across the world, check out different cultures, and experience special events.
There’s more entertainment to be found than just VR games. There are a lot of fun things to do in VR!
Watch 360-degree videos—If you access YouTube through your VR headset, you can search for tons of 360-degree videos. You can find videos that let you experience what it’s like to swim with dolphins, jump out of a plane, or follow along with a fictional story.
Binge Netflix in a quiet, stylish home—Netflix’s VR app lets you appear to watch your shows and movies on a huge screen. You’re set in a comfortable-looking home with the large TV in front of you.
Watch a movie on the big screen—Many devices offer their own apps for movie-watching. With some devices, you can use Virtual Desktop to use your own computer in VR. This means you can watch all your movies from your computer.
Surf the web—Whichever device you’re using, you can likely access a web browser. This means you can fill your vision with a browser and check out all of your usual sites. For instance, Samsung Internet is available on some devices.
Play around on Facebook—With Facebook 360, you can check out tons of VR content on Facebook.
VR has made it possible for people to travel places they might never have been able to go otherwise. With VR, people who have limited mobility or who just can’t afford to take a trip can get a sense of what some locations look like in person. Depending on which device you have, you might have different options for your virtual tourism needs. Search for VR experiences that offer high-quality video tours or look for apps that make use of Google’s Street View.
Visit some amazing places—Jaunt VR offers VR videos of some specific locations. These videos are often documentary-style, and you’re given a chance to learn and walk through some interesting places.
Go anywhere you want and walk the streets—Some apps, like Viso Places, give you a chance to go basically anywhere and look around. Viso Places uses Google Street View, so you can search for a location and magically transport yourself there. You can even use this app to go inside some museums.
(Check out my article with the 7 places you should check out as a virtual tourist!)
Though gaming isn’t all VR is good for, it is just a lot of fun in virtual reality. Here are just a few of the well-received or newer games you might try!
Chronos—An RPG that takes users on a hero’s quest to fight evil. ($39.99)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR—Players can enjoy Skyrim’s huge world in virtual reality. ($41.99 to $59.99)
Fallout 4 VR—The hugely popular Fallout 4 is available in virtual reality, so you can explore the post-apocalyptic world like you’re really there. ($59.99)
Job Simulator—A popular, lighthearted game that has players “job” like humans used to do before robots took over for them. ($19.99)
KIN—A puzzle platformer set on another planet. ($9.99)
Minecraft—Everyone’s favorite sandbox game, but in virtual reality. (Free to $6.99)
The Playroom VR—This game is free for PS VR users, and it’s a fun, bright collection of multiplayer games. (Free)
Rez Infinite—A VR version of this popular game that lets users experience the fast-moving and visually appealing action game in a new way. ($24.99)
Smash Hit—Smash objects as you move through a different dimension. ($2.99)
Vacation Simulator—An upcoming game from the people who created Job Simulator!