Virtual Reality (VR) headsets


A correspondent writes:
I recents became the owner of a virtual
reality (VR) headset. My cell phone snaps
into it. Any hints or advice?

My first bit of advice would be to recall whether your cell phone has just one memory card with a very limited space available, or whether it has, or perhaps you can purchase, a second memory card with a very large capacity. The VR software displays a list of apps that you can download, many of them for free and others for sale. Each app is a like a three-dimensional movie. The gigabytes accumulate fast, and it is handy to have a second memory card.

I use the Gear VR headset with a Samsung phone. I have always found that every VR app downloads automatically to the standard phone memory. Then, if I want to conserve space, I have to manually move it to the second memory card, by clicking on apps ... settings ... apps ... (the name of one of the apps) ... storage ... move. For most apps, this "move" button will be provided, making it possible to transfer the files from phone memory to the supplemental memory card. With some apps, the developers simply did not program this option into them, and, if you decide to keep those apps installed, you have no choice but to occupy part of the limited phone memory.

My second bit of advice would be to begin by thoroughly investigating everything that you can acquire for free, before you decide whether to enter a credit card number and start purchasing programs.

The free apps for PBS Frontline and the New York Times contain many fascinating videos on the subjects of news and travel. You can be placed into a virtual world where you take a take a helicopter ride over the North Pole, descend into a cave of crystals, swim underwater with sharks, walk the streets of Paris, or fly in a spacecraft around Pluto.

The free Amaze! app is generally not educational but very entertaining. It places you into a recording session with popular musicians, into a cage with alligators, into a cafe where you sit just a few feet away from a stand-up comedian, on a stage where dancers are performing, or taking a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Some of the free apps, such as Intel and NextVR provide, among other things, sports events. While many of these are highlights or interviews, I also found some recordings of a complete sports events. A few times I found myself in football stadium, viewing everything in three dimensions, and hitting a button to instantly shift my virtual location, first sitting on the 50-yard line, and then sitting directly below a goal post.

Inside the virtual world, you also have a web browser available. If you view any web content that is flat, two dimensional, what you see is similar to the image of a movie screen with the web text, pictures, or videos displayed on it. However, if that site has the option to enter VR mode, you select that option, the virtual movie screen disappears, and you are instantly popped into the 360 degree environment.

The free demo for Ocean Rift (I have not tried the paid version) takes you to a spot floating beneath the surface of the sea, with fish and turtles swimming all around you. The forward / backward / left / right buttons on the VR headset allow you to glide over or between the underwater boulders. The only thing you can hear are occasional bubbles.

In summary, befoe you should even think about spending any money, checking out what is available for free will probably keep you busy for months.