We tell you about its possible health impacts, a few VR apps you could try and the gear you will need for it
In June 2014, Google introduced Cardboard a DIY kit that resulted in a low-cost Virtual Reality (VR) headset. People could use Cardboard along with compatible apps from the Play Store to dive right into a virtual world. There were simulations for roller coasters and apps that let you pilot a rocket into deep space. With VR, you could walk through foreign cities, watch adventure sports as if you were on a mountain top and even wander into an eerie Egyptian pyramid. By 2015, the market was flooded with durable plastic headsets, and in early 2016, Samsung, Lenovo, OnePlus and HTC also began promoting VR with their smartphones.
But before you buy into the concept, it is important to be informed about the possible side-effects of Virtual Reality as we know it today .
DISORIENTATION AND NAUSEA
The labyrinth, an organ in our inner ear, plays an important role in the way we maintain balance when walking, standing, turning, etc. It interacts with other systems in our body such as the eyes and limbs to gauge the body’s position at all points of time. But when you wear a VR headset, your eyes suggest that your body is moving, while the labyrinth doesn’t re gister these movements because you’re probably seated or standing stationary, and this causes some disorientation. The feeling is similar to when you’re reading a book in a moving vehicle: Your body registers some movement as the car navigates the twists and turns on a road, but since your eyes are focused on a single spot in this case, your book you might feel some dizziness. Also, when you wear a VR headset and turn your head, the software needs to update the graphics you see to create an illusion of a real world. If there is a time lag or the scene is not changed by the same degree that you turn your head, it could cause disorientation.
When users are immersed in a virtual world, it becomes difficult to differentiate that the table you see in there or the open space you see around you does not exist in the real world.
This melding of the real and virtual often results in accidents and injury, especially when users might try to seek physical support from an object that does not exist or if they were to accidentally walk into walls and furniture in the real world. It is therefore very important that VR is enjoyed while users are safely seated, or standing stationary in an area without obstacles or hindrances.
After all, you don’t want flailing arms to break a TV set, knock a vase down from the table, or worse, cause serious injury to the headset user and people around them.
Imagine playing a horror game on your PC. You are walking down a narrow dark hallway where the wooden boards under your feet creak with every step you take; all of a sudden a ghostly banshee lunges at you with a piercing scream.Now imagine that very same scene with a VR headset on. Here, you are actually strapped into that virtual environment and things seem scarier.
VR is designed in a way so that the observer “lives“ the experience. The threats you feel in the game are heightened and so are your reactions to them.This could result in a faster heart rate, and a greater sense of hostility and aggression. The wins and losses you feel in VR, will affect you more psychologically . It is therefore recommended that VR headsets should not be worn for over half an hour at a time, and in case of any feeling of nausea or palpitations, it should be taken off at once.
That said, VR is still a young technology, and it will take a few more years before research and studies can truly understand its effects on our physiological and mental wellbeing.
In any case, if enjoyed in moderation, VR can enrich the way you learn, watch movies, play games and even experience life around you.
Now that we’ve got all that serious stuff out of the way, let’ get started with a few fun VR apps that you could try out…
Spotlight Stories is probably one of the best ways to ste p into the immersive world of VR. It comprises nine short stories, which need to be downloaded individually: there’s the Rain or Shine animation that’s set on the streets of London, while in Pearl you’ll find yourself in the company of a girl and her father inside a moving car; there’s a a tribute to The Simpsons; a night out with insects, and even a suspenseful drama that takes place in Los Angeles after a meteor shower. All these stories give you a first-person view, so feel free to look around and explore your virtual surroundings.
Discovery Channel’s app puts you in the middle of a live action scene. For instance, you can watch a group of samurai demonstrate a fight sequence; follow a sky diver; get up close with a tiger as he goes about his life in the jungle; float up with a balloon to follow it to the edge of space and lots more.You will need a working data connection for this app because the videos are streamed each time they are played. All the stories are only a couple of minutes long, and while video quality is not top notch, it ensures smooth playback.
You can take VR photos with this app and share it with friends and family.The snapshots can be viewed without a headset, like a normal panorama, but the experience gets a lot better in VR.Taking a photograph is similar to a panorama shot: hold the phone in portrait mode and follow the progress bar to slowly pan around you. Your recording will also capture sound, so viewers will get a better `feel’ of your surroundings.
AAA VR CINEMA
You may not have the equipment to shoot 360-degree VR videos, but you can make regular footage more immersive. Open a video clip in AAA VR Cinema and it will play two screens side by side, so you can watch it with a headset on. The app includes many orientation and configuration options, so it might take some time figuring out what works best for with your smartphone. You can even navigate the app’s menu with the headset on: Just move your gaze to look at the control you want to `press’. It is recommended you watch short videos as prolonged use may cause disorientation.
Using this app, you can take your kids to Paris, or for a swim along a coral reef. To use this app you will need multiple cellphones and VR headsets with all of these handsets connected to the same Wi-Fi network. You can then enter the app as a guide and select a destination. The rest of the family joins your tour as “explorers“. The app provides talking points and even cues as to when to hold an interactive Q&A.When you tap on a point of interest your group will be prompted on their screens to look around them. With over 200 tours, there is a lot of exploring you can do: take a look inside a teepee, visit Mount Everest, make a trip to the Moon and more. Visuals are mostly static, 360-degree images to avoid causing discomfort to children.
With Street View, you can familiarise yourself with the places you plan to visit. You can choose landmarks at inter national destinations, and even “walk“ into a museum or restaurant. You can even add your own 360-degree snapshots of the places you have visited by publishing them to Google Maps. Of course, Street View can also be used without a VR headset, but where’s the fun in that?
What’s VR without a game or two? You can start with a simple game like GermBuster VR where you have to destroy germs in your room before they infect you. There is very little movement in this game: You have to look on either side of the room, stare at a germ to aim your laser at it and your bubble gun will fire away. The game gets more challenging as you progress through the stages. Then there’s Lamper VR: Firefly Rescue where you have to guide a firefly through a wooded forest while avoiding spiders and plant monsters. Moving your head lets you guide Lamper and pick up sparks and power boosts. This game involves motion in the virtual world and head movements, so play short sessions to avoid discomfort.
VR headsets you can buy…
Before you purchase a VR headset, you should first check if your smartphone supports this platform.The easiest way to find out is by installing Google’s Cardboard app on your phone. If your smartphone is not compatible, you will not be able to download this app.You can also double check with Eze VR, an app that checks to see if the handset has a gyroscope and magnetic field sensor. The former is necessary as most VR apps require a gyroscope sensor to detect motion and orientation.
Beginners can consider the…
GetCardboard DIY (Rs.200): This viewer is made of lami nated cardboard and comes with a magnetic trigger, which lets you make on screen selections.
It supports cellphones with a display size of up to 5.5 inches.
AuraVR Headset (Rs.300):
This kit is fabricated out of plastic with an adjustable head strap and support for devices with a 6-inch display .
If your budget allows, then there is the…
Procus Brat VR (Rs.2,100) and AuraVR Pro (Rs.2,000): Both these headsets have individual dials to adjust lens distance, foam padding along the head mount and an overhead strap for a better fit. Both come with a portable Bluetooth game controller, which can be used without the headset.
Enrg VR Able Studio (Rs.2,990): This headset comes with built-in headphones that cover the ears when you don the headset.
Samsung Gear VR (Rs.7,290):
Consider this headset if you own a Sam sung Galaxy S6, S7 or Note 5 smartphone. The device comes with a touchpad, a set of buttons for menu navigation and volume control for easy access.
Can’t decide which gizmo is right for you? Looking for buying suggestions? Write to [email protected]
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IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT…
1 You see a doctor before you use a VR headset, especially if you are pregnant, elderly, have any vision abnormalities, or suffer from psychiatric disorders, epilepsy, migraines, ear aches, or a history of heart disease andor hypertension.
2 You should not use VR when you are tired, need sleep, are drunk or hungover, suffer from emotional stress or anxiety.
3 Children under the age of 13 should not use VR. Excessive use of VR could result in disorientation, dizziness, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, lightheadedness, loss of balance, motion sickness, nausea, and even seizures in extreme cases.