All about virtual reality (VR)

First developed in 1968, Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can either mimic real life, or help you escape from it. It has soared in recent years, taking over the gaming industry alongside Augmented Reality (AR) visual art. Here, we’ll explore exactly what it is and how to use it. 

Last updated: 7th Sep 2020 at 11:59am

What is VR?

Virtual Reality allows you to experience a virtual world using a headset that goes over your eyes (and sometimes ears), and a set of controllers that act as your hands in the digital world. The headset allows you to look completely into a digital world, with absolutely no familiarity or visibility of the room you may be standing in while playing. The controllers let you interact with this virtual environment. With the sound and sight, it’s real immersion into a world completely unlike your own. 

How does VR work?

There are a few different types of VR systems on the market, from cheap headsets that work efficiently with your smartphone, to very expensive high-end setups like the HTC Vive and Oculus Quest. Some are designed to connect to existing games consoles and PCs, whereas others, like the Oculus, are stand-alone gaming platforms in their own right. 

The headset contains a 360-degree video display, which rotates as you do, so you can follow the changing landscape with your movements. Sound plays through speakers like any other headphone, but combined with the very boxed-in virtual environment, this can make the player feel totally immersed.

You can set up the parameters of your room so the system can warn you before bumping into physical objects around you. 

What is VR used for?

Technology has been gearing itself up for Virtual Reality gaming for decades. Before gaming propelled it into the media, VR was used primarily for training and education purposes. 

Pilots and surgeons would use it to practice their craft without putting anyone or themselves at risk. Pilots used it to experience flight simulation, only seeing and feeling the screen and controls before them. Surgeons could practice fake operations on animated beings, to ensure they knew exactly what they were doing in that scenario. 

Other educational uses included teleporting children into historical periods, by allowing them to walk Victorian cobbled streets or roam the earth alongside dinosaurs. 

It was also used for building and visual art purposes, allowing architects and archaeologists to build sculptures to showcase their work.

Nowadays, it’s predominant use is in the gaming industry though. Companies like Nintendo, EA, Microsoft and Sony have all released VR games, with an uncountable number of studios cropping up developing VR and AR video games. 

Soon enough, the digital world will be as present as the real world. 

How can I use VR on my smartphone?

In order to play or watch VR games on your phone, all you need is a suitable headset. You can browse the internet for a good yet budget-friendly option, but make sure whatever you buy is compatible with the model you have. For example, a Samsung Gear VR may not function on your iPhone X, and vice versa. 

If you’ve purchased your headset, next you need to download a VR video. You should be able to insert your smartphone into the front of the headset before placing it over your head. You will then be able to visualise the video you chose, completely immersed. (If you don’t want to buy a VR video, you might be able to find some good, free ones on YouTube for a trial experience). 

Now, wander around (carefully!) and experience your new digital world, all through your headset and phone. 

Best VR Games

New games are popping up so frequently that it can be hard to decide what to spend your money and time on. Some of the best and most popular VR games on offer right now are listed below:

  • Half-Life: Alyx - scientific, zombies, thriller/horror, puzzles
  • No Man’s Sky - space, action, survival, adventure
  • Vader Immortal - narrative, Star Wars, action
  • Space Pirate Trainer - action, adventure, space, weaponry, fantasy
  • Skyrim VR - fantasy, action, adventure
  • Astro Bot: Rescue Mission - platforming, adventure, immersive
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard - horror, thriller, zombies, mystery, action
  • Moss - family-friendly, nature, animals, storylike, puzzles 
  • Fallout 4 VR - adventure, post-apocalypse, action
  • Minecraft - creativity, building, adventure, architecture 

And much, much more. 

Are you looking for a handset to play VR on? Check out our full range online

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