I experienced virtual reality for the first time and it was incredible.
OK, so it was only my phone inside a cardboard box strapped to my head with elastic, but it was still amazing.
When a coworker brought in his Google Cardboard viewer, I really didn't know what to expect. I had been interested in VR for a few years but I never had the chance to experience it myself. It only took a few minutes to hook everything up and load the app. That's all the time it took to become totally transported out of the VapeWorld offices.
I went over dips and turns on a deserted roller coaster. I took a relaxing drive through a mountain-winding road. I took a ride on one of those nauseating swinging ship rides and almost wanted to puke. Each experience was fluid and immersive. When I finally took the viewer off I couldn't help but think, "wow, this would be amazing after a vape session..."
For many years virtual reality has been more science fiction than consumer-ready tech, but that all might be changing soon. We've heard it many times before, but VR might finally be approaching the mainstream. Here are some current and upcoming ways you can experience virtual reality.
Image via Wikipedia
Google Cardboard is hands-down the quickest and most accessible way for you to experience virtual reality right now. Cardboard can be used with Android phones running version 4.1 or later and iPhone 5 and up. The cardboard viewer is available via Google here but we recommend picking it up on Amazon for about $5. Or if you're feeling extra crafty, you can follow Google's instructions to make your own. Just make sure whichever viewer you choose is the right fit for your device. Once you have your viewer you're ready to go. Just head over to your app store and find some apps for Cardboard. While you're waiting for your viewer to arrive, you can play with some 360-degree videos on YouTube here; guaranteed to blow your mind.
Image via Oculus
Since 2012, Oculus VR has been at the forefront of consumer virtual reality tech with their product, the Oculus Rift. The headset is being positioned as a gaming device and developers have already created a number of games that will be ready to play at release. To use the Rift you'll need a pretty powerful PC with Windows to run the software. Rift users will also have the option to purchase Oculus Touch, two wireless motion controllers that will allow users to interact in their virtual world. If you're seriously into new tech and high-end gaming, the Rift should be available for preorder later this year with a release in early 2016. The Rift will cost you about $300, but considering you can have experiences like this, we'd say it's worth it.
Image via Wikipedia
A challenger appears! Enter HTC Vive. The Vive is being developed in co-production with HTC and Valve so you know you can expect something amazing. Vive combines positional tracking and two controllers to pull of a sensory illusion that will make you feel completely immersed in a virtual world. First, the two wall-mounted sensors track your physical movement allowing you to walk, jump, tilt, and turn - all while keeping tabs on your position. Second, Vive's controllers display your hands in VR. You can hold them in front of you, turn them, and pick up objects. If you're having trouble imagining it, check out the demo from Valve here.
Image via Forbes
Say hello to Hololens. Microsoft's venture into virtual reality is the most recent of the devices we've discussed so far, and it's different in a lot of ways. First and foremost, Hololens might be best described as augmented reality or mixed reality. What this means is that Hololens incorporates real-world elements with virtual elements to create a hybrid experience. We discussed how this could be incorporated into gaming in our recent blog post. Where the Vive and Rift would immerse you in a virtual world, Hololens would bring the virtual world into reality. Imagine a Minecraft castle appearing right in front of you on your coffee table. Microsoft states that Hololens will be available in the coming year. We're excited to see more of what it can do.
Image via Kotaku
OK, so we've gone over a lot. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, don't sweat it. While 2016 looks to be the year VR finally comes to the masses, there are still a lot of obstacles for consumers which is why the first people who purchase these devices will be the earliest adopters. Expect prices to drop on this technology as new hardware comes to market. In no-time, I expect we'll all be traveling through space with our vapes from the comfort of our couches.