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Are you ready for Virtual Reality?

Going outside is highly overrated

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

My path to VR

When I was a little girl, one of my prized possessions was my View-Master. It didn’t really matter to me if the reel I was viewing showed a visit to Yellowstone, Yogi Bear or the coronation of QEII. I didn’t care because I was transported.

As I entered my teens and started working to earn some money, my free time wasn’t spent hanging out at malls, buying makeup or clothes. You could find me in antique and junk shops, looking for (among other things) old View-Master reels to add to my collection. This was also when I discovered stereoscopes (thank you, Sir Charles Wheatstone), which blew my mind. They were truly the original virtual reality (VR) device! I accumulated a very respectable collection of these, including a very cool table top version.

At the time time, I was in love with 3-D movies, such as Creature From the Black Lagoon. Again, I didn’t care what the movie topic was, though most of them seemed to have a horror theme. Fine with me. I’m just here for the IMMERSION. I loved how 3-D movies drew me in. And, of course, I loved the science of it. But I wanted more. I wanted to truly feel I was a part of what I was seeing.

Fast forward past Smell-O-Vision, Sensorama, The Sword of Damocles and the never-released Sega VR to the Nintendo Virtual Boy, released in 1995. OMG. It was horrible. I had the opportunity to try one out, and my hopes for a functional VR system were crushed. For about fifteen years.

Satisfaction, at last…

Happily, there are now several options for those wanting to escape into the virtual world. There are headsets that connect to your PC or game console (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive Pro), mobile VR headsets into which you pop your device-specific smartphone (Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard) and the best of all, standalone VR (Oculus GO, Oculus Quest). Standalone means no wires, no smartphone to fuss with. You just strap the world to your face.

I got my hands on the Samsung Gear VR when it was a $99 promotion with the purchase of a Galaxy S7 , and while it’s much better than Google Cardboard, I really found it annoying enough to keep me from playing with it very much. My phone slipped around in the holder, my phone would overheat and it seemed I was always having to adjust something, and that will ruin your VR experience in a hurry.

I’m now the supremely happy owner of a standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest. I bought the Quest a few months ago, and my husband did the same after experiencing mine. I’d been waiting for its release for nearly three years, and frankly I was prepared to be disappointed once again. Not this time. It’s fabulous! It’s self-contained, intuitive, MUCH more immersive than even the Oculus GO, and it’s more fun than I’d ever hoped it would be!

Why VR? What can you do with it?

  • Play games, and feel like you’re inside the game itself. Think TRON. Only much better.
  • Watch movies, including 360° and 3-D movies. And you can watch in a virtual theater with friends who also have VR.
  • Planning a trip? You can walk around the area of hotels you’re choosing between to see what it’s really like.
  • Trick yourself into exercising! Many VR games are very movement-oriented, such as Beat Saber. Burn crazy calories!
  • Create 3-D artwork/sculpture that can be exported to a 3-D printer. Seriously. Too cool.
  • All those cool flying dreams you have? Now you can experience that whenever you want.
  • Travel. Explore. Discover. I can’t express how cool this is.
  • Immersive entertainment. It’s one thing to watch a concert. It’s a totally different thing to be surrounded by one.
  • …too much more to mention, though I’ll revisit this list and update it occasionally.

I’ll be writing about the various specific experiences that I try, including Beat Saber, Wander, Moss and more, as well as the therapeutic applications that are being developed for VR.

My recommendations, with affiliate links below:

I’ve tried the Google Cardboard, and for $15, it’s really hard to go wrong if you just want to dip your toes in the VR waters. They also offer a 2-pack for $25. It could make for a fun and interesting date night!

We both went with the 128GB headset, though I think that was overkill. The downloads — or ‘experiences’, as they’re called — are surprisingly small. And should you need to, you can always deactivate an experience and reactivate it again later if you wish. If money is no object, sure. Go with the 128GB. If you’d like to save about $100, then opt for the 64GB headset.

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