me wearing VR box headset

Who needs actual reality when you have VIRTUAL REALITY!!

I’ve noticed for quite  while that some Youtube videos have a little cardboard symbol:

google cardboard icon

I’ve seen some of the 360 videos before, and I think the first was this awesome Star Wars scene, that you can look around in 3D:

On a whim, I decided to get a Google cardboard to see if it’s a decent experience, and now I’m hooked!

You can buy kits to make your own google cardboard, which is a headset made of cardboard that you slot your phone into. Essentially the phone does all the hard work, it has an accelerometer etc, you just need something simple to strap it to your head.

Thing is, it’s not just cardboard, it requires some lenses. There’s instructions here, but as it requires a lot of fiddling and buying stuff, I thought it’d be easier to buy an actual plastic headset, and the one I bought actually was a pretty decent price at £14.

virtual reality headset

Here’s a link to the one I bought – actually that’s better than the one I got, because I was stupid and bought one without the controller, even though I could have got one included at the same price.

Looking for VR content sort of opens up a whole side of the internet that I didn’t really know was there, because I’d never looked at it. There’s actually loads of 360 videos on Youtube, not just the few that I’d seen. Youtube has a designated channel for it, and that’s fun to explore for a while, until you realise it’s mostly gimmicky videos like short music videos or motorsport, and yes, a hell of a lot of rollercoaster videos.

When bored of those, I explored the games that support cardboard, and there’s a few, but again, mostly gimmicky ones. Again, there’s rollercoaster experiences, which actually work better rendered in a game engine I think (this one was my favourite), not sure whether it’s the higher pixel quality (youtube videos are a bit blurry, I guess because of compression), or if the 3D just works better when it’s using a 3D game engine.

There’s also exploration games, like a dinosaur experience where you can walk around and see static or badly animated dinosaurs. It was a bit lame, I assume this is a technology still on the fringes, and in it’s infancy, being jumped upon by indies who just wanted to experiment, so there’s a lot of short tech demos and gimmicky stuff. The really good games right now are few and far between, although there are some cool experiences.

There’s also a lot of horror games, that put you in the centre of a room with creepy sounds, and things moving in the dark, usually ending with something screaming right in your face. I’ve tried a few of these, and I admit they can really freak you out, but I’m quite bored of them now.

Oh, I must say this though. There’s a problem with my headset. It’s great, and comfy, and does a very good job – but, there’s no way to press anything on the screen. So the VR experiences I’ve had so far have been ones where you can’t interact at all, apart from moving your head in a certain direction. Some games and interfaces have a cursor in the centre of your vision, and looking at a button shows a progress bar which counts down until it’s selected, but it looks like some require a separate controller, which I’ve ordered but hasn’t yet arrived.

Best VR experiences so far:

I know you never asked, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

Omg David Attenborough! And a dinosaur! In 3D! Absolutely awesome. What’s great about this is you can”t see the entire dinosaur, so really do have to move your head, making it feel like you’re really there.

We’re going to Venice in the summer, and are looking forward to having a goldola ride through the city. But watched this last night, and maybe this could have saved us an expensive holiday 😛

The above is a video of Androids Dream. Where you’re flying (or being flown) around the city of Bladerunner in one of the flying cars they call a “spinner”. This isn’t the actual thing, it’s just a recording, and the actual game gives you full control to look around. It’s quite short, and doesn’t really allow you to do much, I assume it’s a tech demo, but as a Bladerunner fan, this really brought me into the murky world of Bladerunner, complete with 80s electronic background music.

A great short video with some sharks. I actually recoiled as the shark came towards me.

Problems with the headset

Another thing you never asked for are problems with the headset! I already mentioned that you can’t actually press the screen once the phone’s locked away in the headset. This limits the type of games I can play right now, and there’s a lot to look forward to once I get a controller.

The next is probably a problem with the phone, not the headset. But because of the way it clamps the phone in the headset, it catches the on/off button on my OnePlus X, which means a few times at first, it actually held the button down and turned it off! So I have to turn the phone upside down. Youtube videos and most games accommodate for the screen being upside down and flip accordingly, but some don’t. I’m gutted that there’s a Dinosaur-themed rollercoaster that doesn’t work for me, unless I want to ride it upside down, and then it’s just weird.

It’s bruised my nose. I think the headset is for people with smaller than average noses, because it really presses on mine, leaving a mark. Probably a sign I’ve been over-using it though!