Virtual reality is finally here. Again. But this time it’s here to stay: no more silly gloves, no more having to go to a coin-op arcade to experience it. It’s in your pocket, and it’s good.
Among the launch accessories for LG’s G5 smartphone, one product stands out for lovers of this next-gen eye-feast: the 360 VR headset.
Hooking up to the G5 via a USB cable, the 360 VR gives you full, immersive VR wherever you are. The phone’s lightning-quick processor and powerful Adreno 530 graphics chip are able to do the bulk of the technical heavy lifting, and unlike most smartphone-driven virtual reality experiences, the headset features its own display rather than using the phone’s screen. This makes it smaller, lighter and more comfortable than many competitors - as well as freeing up the phone's screen for extra control.
If you’re planning to get your hands (and eyes) on the 360 VR, below is our pick of the best virtual reality apps, games and videos to get you started. Make sure to try the videos in the YouTube app when you have a headset, but while you're here, have a go at pulling them around with your finger or mouse pointer.
You'll need a fast connection for the full experience when you're out and about, particularly for the videos, some of which are available in 4K resolution – so here EE’s super-quick 4GEE network is a boon. It offers 50 percent faster 4G than any other UK network, and covers 95 percent of the UK’s population.
On with the show…
Google Street View (Free)
Even if you’ve never worn a virtual reality headset before, you’re almost certainly familiar with Street View. With millions of images taken by Google’s camera-equipped cars as they drive down (almost) every public road, dual carriageway and motorway, Street View covers huge portions of the world’s towns and cities. And because these images are all 360-degree, it’s a perfect partner for VR – you can stand (virtually) on pretty much any street corner, in any country, and look all around.
Proton Pulse (£1.27)
This virtual reality riff on the classic “breakthrough” genre of block-smashing games offers an enjoyable (and thankfully non-nauseating) glimpse at the future of mobile VR games. The principle and controls are simple: look around to move the paddle that bats the ball back towards the blocks on the far wall until all of them are gone – and don’t let it hit you.
Google Cardboard Camera (Free)
This Google-made app turns you into a VR creator by letting you take 360-degree panoramic photos. You can later view these shots using the 360 VR, putting you right back in the spots in which you were standing when you took them. The app even captures audio while you’re taking your photo, to sprinkle on that extra bit of immersive ambience.
Virtual reality has the ability to make survival horror games that much scarier, and this free demo shows precisely why: rather than experience the frights as a detached viewer, you’re actually inside the environment with whatever’s stalking/stabbing/chasing you. Sisters is set entirely inside a creepy living room. It features a power cut. A storm. And twin dolls. We won’t say anything else for fear of spoiling the scares.
Star Wars (Free)
This app isn’t all about virtual reality – it’s designed to promote the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, and features all sorts of Force-related goodies. One of these, Jakku Spy, is a VR viewer however, and it offers you the chance to experience nine different virtual reality environments from the movie – think animated 360-degree pictures. Each features lovable droid BB-8 delivering a message, as well as a collectible card to find.
Avicii - Waiting For Love
Another type of video that has fully embraced virtual reality is the music promo. We’ve recently seen noteworthy 360-degree videos from the likes of Björk and Foals, but this clip from Swedish superstar DJ Avicii also makes use of 3D, putting you in a room surrounded by video screens and tightly-choreographed dancers.
Pac-Man is one of the world’s best-known 2D video games, but what if you were seeing it in 3D, through the eyes of its eponymous hero? This clip delivers precisely that, turning the single-screen retro classic into a claustrophobic, somewhat nausea-inducing chase through winding corridors as you gobble up pills and attempt to avoid being caught by ghosts. Our conclusion? Pac-Man is almost certainly better left in 2D – but it’s nevertheless enlightening to watch the game play out from a fresh perspective.
Fighter jet cockpit
Now that you can no longer visit the cockpit of an aeroplane unless you’re the person that’s actually flying it, curious aviation enthusiasts need to get their kicks another way – and VR is one such example. This four-minute 360-degree video puts you right in the middle of the action as a Swiss fighter jet performs several manoeuvres. Highlights include a barrel roll, flare launch and a low pass over snow-capped peaks. Sweaty palms time!
Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur
Until the inevitable Jurassic Park VR app arrives, here’s the next best thing. It's a short clip in which national treasure David Attenborough “observes” the largest living creature ever to walk the earth: the titanosaur. And thanks to virtual reality, you’re riding shotgun. True, the dinosaurs are made using CGI, but you’ve never felt so close to these magnificent beasts as this video takes you.