Virtual Reality is giving people a completely new ability to explore destinations and experience things they can’t even imagine. Google Cardboard is a budget friendly VR solution to getting a taste of what the hype is all about. Simply strap your phone into a funky cardboard mask, strap it close to your eyeballs and let the gyroscope take you to a whole new world. From VR gaming, VR videos, and VR travel apps, it’s kind of the wild west out there. I wanted a taste.
Introducing Google Cardboard
I’ve been making the slow move to trying out more Android products after feeling like Apple has just thrown in the towel on shaking things up lately. While browsing around the Google Play store somehow I came across Google Cardboard. Which lead me down a rabbit hole of Cell Phone Wearables.
High quality despite being made of cardboard
Google cardboard is a VR headset that allows your phone to act as if it is a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Although it might not have all of the same bells and whistles, it does a superb job at emulating the experience on a tight budget. Google cardboard costs approximately $10 per headset and despite being made of, as you can guess – cardboard, the build quality is surprisingly high.
Playing in a cardboard box has never been this cool
Google cardboard features a flap that allows you to insert your mobile phone and lock it up with velcro. It fits snug and secure so you have very little chance of dropping your phone. It also includes two eyepiece lenses that are concave enough to allow you to view the VR screen in the app that goes along with Google cardboard. As soon as you sync up your phone to this headset by a QR code, you have access to explore some of the free demos as well as other cardboard apps available on the Google Play Store.
A quick review of some of the VR Apps I’ve Used
I was curious about what the experience would be like not only for gaming but also for things like exploring maps and cities and videos. I’ve played around with five or six different apps now and each seems to provide a new experience.
Google Earth VR
The Google Earth demo allows you to travel and fly in three dimensions as you browse different cities and locations around the globe. You even have the ability to fly out to space to get a bird’s-eye view of what this blue dot that we live on is all about.
Make sure you check out the Google Earth VR Promo video
Ascape 360 VR Virtual Travel
Ascape is like a virtual tour into different parts of the world. It appears to be primarily 3d video recorded but the sights and sounds really give you a sense of being right there. It’s the closets I’ve felt to being given the ability to digitally people watch and snoop around the globe without spending a dime on flights.
Ascape is a superb VR tour guide app that puts you in the hot seat of people watching and exploring different cities and destinations. Kind of a fun use of the technology, but safe. Not ground breaking but still cool enough to check out. Plus you get to fully immerse yourself in these other destinations. Weirdly enough a lot of the tours I went on were crazy busy. It’s like they purposely chose really busy tourist locations. Which kind of just gives you the digital VR feeling of being claustrophobic. If you hate crowds maybe find tours in Nature or something. The downtown city ones are interesting but ooph, the realism of the crowds can make your palms sweaty.
Titans of space
If you’re a space junkie, this is the best of both travel and space worlds. A high quality guided tour through the solar system. It’s a wildly emotional and beautiful journey. I paid for the upgrade to the pro version to get the full tour. It was only a few bucks. I’ve paid 10x that amount for tours that were way more boring. Of all the apps I played with this one was one of my favourites.
View master destinations
Do you guys remember Much Music’s Popup Video? This is kind of like that. Only with travel. It’s cute, but not as nice as some of the others. Still a cool way to explore the earth from your living room.
I’ve been obsessed with Mars for years. Kim Stanley Robinsons Red Mars trilogy is one of the most amazing works of fictionalized exploration and colonization of our neighbouring planet.
VR Mars is a bit like the Titans of Space, only it lets you tour around the ground of Mars. It’s a wild ride, not as in depth compared to Titans of Space but still worth checking out.
The future of VR apps and Travel is likely going to evolve quite a bit in the coming years. I’m looking forward to see what else comes out!