Although it’s still a long way off from being the top technology trend to disrupt industries it was once heralded as, Virtual Reality has been making a lot of headway over the past few years. Whilst native devices remain the best overall way to experience 360 video and immersive content, such devices (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR etc) can be expensive to buy, putting the technology out of reach of many consumers across the globe. If you do manage to get your hands on a headset, you then have to pay extra for the VR games and software experiences themselves.
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Coolest VR Experiences, You must Try
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Luckily, native devices aren’t the only way to view and experience VR content. There are a number of innovative and interesting experiences to be found on the ‘net, as well as in settings you may not automatically think of. So, let’s take a look at some of the best VR experiences that you can have on the ‘net right now, some of which are completely free.
YouTube was actually one of the first tech giants to make VR content available to everyone who didn’t have the Google Cardboard or Android VR headsets back in 2016. The release of YouTube version 11.18 meant that iOS users could view any YouTube content in VR mode, even if it wasn’t originally filmed in VR or as a 360 video. You need to change the settings a bit and pop your iPhone into your headset, but it can still be done today without the need for a standalone YouTubeVR app.
This one for all the mind sports enthusiasts out there… Last year, the online gaming platform PokerStars took the iGaming industry to a whole new level with the release of its dedicated Virtual Reality poker game. This year, the platform has stepped things up a notch by launching a Virtual Reality poker tournament, the PokerStars VRPT Tour. Exclusively open to members of the platform, this real money tournament will harness the power of VR to transport competitors to locations like Macau and even outer space, allowing them to play and compete for real prizes in an immersive environment.
Google Earth VR
The Google Earth app is pretty much ubiquitous amongst HTC Vive and Oculus Rift users, who can continue to get their hands on the latest version of the app by downloading it from Steam. Avid gamers will see a lot of similarities between open-world games and the Google Earth VR experience, the only difference being this experience is actually really well, sort of. Users have the freedom to explore anywhere and everywhere on earth, zooming in on details and getting an authentic experience. Cardboard users can also get a similar experience with their smartphones, downloading the Street View app for Cardboard and Daydream will enhance its functionality and viewing experience.
Home: A VR Spacewalk
Commissioned by the BBC and informed by actual NASA training simulations, Home: A VR Spacewalk gives users the unique experience of taking the first-person walk through space. Floating 250 miles above space, you’ll be able to feel like an astronaut-in-training as you stroll across the galaxy, dealing with any challenges and emergencies that stand in your way.
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The Breeders Cup
(OK, so this isn’t an ongoing experience, but it is still an interesting application of the technology and could lead the way for other sports and disciplines to follow).
Despite the digital era being well underway, the most interactive way to get involved with the sport online up until quite recently would’ve been to place wagers on major races. In 2018, however, VR was introduced to the Breeders Cup to offer fans and racegoers a totally new experience.
The race was streamed as both a live virtual reality and 360 video broadcast, incorporating three VR cameras in exclusive areas like the paddock, backstretch and Winner’s Circle. VR fans – from Cardboard and Daydream users to Oculus owners – could watch the VR content directly in devices, whilst non-VR users could watch the content in 360 on the race’s official website and its YouTube channel.
A-Frame, rather than being an individual web VR experience, is a framework for building online experiences. Its website acts as a curious webVR archive that collates a number of different experiences and experiments. It’s designed for everyone to use, and as such is organized from simple VR spaces to more complex VR games (that can be played without VR too).
Starting off in a blank room, which is intended to help users acclimatize, it’s possible to open 360 video and photo galleries, take a VR tour across New York City, participate in virtual museum tours and access all manner of games. The best thing is, all the content collected on A-Frame is free to use.