Have wonderful adventures without leaving your living room
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim with sharks, perform before thousands of cheering fans or walk on the moon? Virtual reality (VR) can make those musings seem remarkably real.
All you need is your smartphone and a viewer as basic as the $15 Google Cardboard, according to Consumer Reports. Or to feel immersed in the action, you could spend $600 on a state-of-the-art, gamer-friendly Oculus Rift.
Consumer Reports provides a few examples of VR’s possibilities.
• Wildlife Adventure: MythBusters: Shark Shipwreck and Sharks Everywhere!
One of the appeals of VR is that it allows you to visit dangerous places without putting yourself in danger. This pair of 4-minute videos takes you underwater on a shark-infested dive to a shipwreck in the Bahamas. Everywhere you turn, it seems, you see the fins of reef sharks. The video is not as clear as could be, but the slow, rhythmic movements of the prehistoric predators, the decaying ship carcass and the sound of gurgling scuba bubbles make for a journey captivating enough to have logged more than 12 million views on YouTube. Free on Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR apps.
• Documentary: 6x9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement
At any time, roughly 80,000 people in the United States are held in solitary confinement. This documentary gives you an idea of their plight by immersing you in a Spartan 6-by-9-foot cell. Though the video is only nine minutes long, changes in light and the sounds of closing doors, dripping water and talking prison guards create a sense of time passing. Audio amplifies the visceral, disturbing nature of the visuals: Six men and one woman who have experienced solitary confinement describe the toll that it takes, and psychologists share professional insights on that form of punishment. Free on Google Cardboard
and Samsung Gear VR apps.
• Amusement: Six Flags’ VR Roller Coasters
Want to take your next roller coaster experience to even greater heights? At nine of the Six Flags amusement parks, you board a roller coaster, don a Samsung Gear VR and watch a computer-generated video synced to your real-life ride -- dips, climbs and all. When the VR craft you’re piloting plunges 90 feet, so do you -- so there’s nothing virtual about the feeling of your stomach leaping to your throat. Consumer Reports found that the twists and turns are very real, but there are no sound effects. Still, the added visceral element more than makes up for the lack of soundtrack. Free with park admission on Samsung Gear VR app.
• Health: Perfect Beach VR
This beautifully produced app lets you escape to the beach without fighting traffic or getting sand in your swimsuit. Just don a pair of VR goggles and choose sand or pier, high noon or sunset. You can chill out even more with guided meditation or just lie back and listen to the crashing waves and the cries of seagulls. $3 on Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR apps.