Google Play Store is already filled with apps that attempt to make sense of
virtual reality. There are games, and videos, and things that are best
described as experiences, which might see you hovering behind folks loping up a
mountain, or seated a few steps behind a band in the middle of a show. Here are
a few of our favorites.
This one's short and almost wholly overwhelming. There are a lot colors involved, and something
like a rollercoaster ride, monastic chanting and a cynical homage to Americana.
You're really going to have to see this one for yourself.
There are a couple
of car experiences floating about the Google Play store, and they're all
designed to emulate the feel of riding around in a very fast, very expensive
sports car. There are only two videos here and the first is a bit dull. But the
second features popular gearhead Chris Harris, and "riding" alongside
him as he prattles on in his characteristically breathless way makes me wish
all of the rest of his video reviews were in VR, too.
This one is a little
cheesy, but also quite a bit of fun. Think of it as a 3D version of those
classic brick breaker games: a ball bounces around a tunnel, and you'll need to
keep it away from the floor by blocking it with a paddle. Except the "floor"
is your face, and the paddle is also your face. You'll guide a translucent blue
paddle by turning your head about,
keeping the glowing ball bouncing until you've cleared all of the blocks
hovering in front of you. It's a simple, fun experience with plenty of levels
-- well worth $1.99 (£1.99, AU$1.99).
Tilt Brush is an app
that will ultimately let you paint in three dimensions, in virtual reality. The
company was recently bought by Google, and while they're not ready to let us
paint just yet, the Tilt Brush Gallery app gives you an early taste of what's
possible: you can load premade sketches
and watch them be drawn in real time.
There are already
plenty of 360-degree videos available on YouTube, ranging from music videos and
movie trailers to a wide array of racing simulations. The quality here is going
to vary tremendously as there are a lot of amateurs getting in on the act, but
it's still a fun way to see how creative folk are making sense of virtual
There are plenty of
snippets from concerts and full music videos to choose from among the apps
available for Google Cardboard. I chose this Jack White sample because I've
been to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and it's a stunning venue. This concert puts
you backstage, behind the band and the members of the stage crew right in the
middle of a performance.
This is short little
game (also available for the Oculus Rift) is an experimental project designed
to ease both the developers and gamers into the world of virtual reality. You
play a pilot of sorts, traveling through the human brain zapping damaged neurons
by looking at them. The entire experience is on rails, which almost makes it
part rollercoaster, part turkey shoot -- a nice, free diversion, and a chance
to try to rack up a high score.
When I hear
"base jumping," the first thought that comes to mind is
"Nope." That's the second and third thought, too. But this North Face
app is a fun little approximation of what it's like to throw yourself off a
cliff for your own amusement. To each their own, I guess? It's a fairly short
video, though I'll admit it is rather fun spinning around in my swivel chair to
figure out where the climbers are lurking, or following their leaps as the
camera drone flies past overhead.