With all the excitement surrounding the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, many people forget that the Samsung Gear VR was one of the first VR platforms to get off the ground, and in that time its developed quite a selection of titles. We already covered what we feel are the best Samsung Gear VR games on the market, but now it’s time to take a look at the latest and greatest Samsung VR apps and experiences on offer.
People talk about armchair travel often enough, but it’s never really been possible until now. StreetView VR lets users roam the planet in virtual reality. Pulling data from Google’s Streetview, StreetView VR creates a free-roaming experience that lets users see the world for themselves. Wikipedia is integrated into the app, making it easy to pull up information on the sites. However, there are a few downsides; because the app pulls images from Streetview, there is a lack of depth. It doesn’t feel like ‘true’ VR, but it’s still a cool experience nonetheless.
How many science fiction shows can you remember where the Internet appears before users as a traversable city? While VR hasn’t yet reached that point, it may well be on its way. Samsung Internet allows users to transition for a virtual reality mobile experience to a browsing experience with ease.
The Samsung Internet has voice input for jumping around websites quickly and easily, and the virtual keyboard is easy to use, but not quite as effective as the actual keyboard on your phone. The downside to Samsung Internet is that it cuts the resolution by more than half, but the immersive feel is almost worth it. When using the browser, it feels like only you and the Internet exist.
Oculus Social Beta
Social media was the ‘next big thing’ barely a decade ago, and has been a major part of day to day life since then. It seems only natural that it would make its way to virtual reality. The Oculus Social Beta is one of the first entries in a wave of social platforms coming to virtual reality. It provides users with the ability to play games, chat, and share images and videos with others.
Private rooms can be created to chat with friends and family, or you can hop into chatrooms with random users to make more friends. Because the Oculus Social platform limits access to only four users per room, it creates a more intimate atmosphere that encourages conversation (or awkward silence, depending on the room.)
The only thing better than attending major, historical events is attending them in virtual reality and avoiding the crowds. NextVR makes this possible. The app live streams events in 180 degrees, allowing users to get a great view of the event. The app has been used to stream events like the US Open and NASCAR races, as well as US presidential debates.
When big events happen, it’s one thing to watch them in the news. It’s something else entirely to be there in virtual reality and watch the reactions of those in attendance.
AltSpace VR is another social platform for Gear VR. It connects users in a virtual room to chat and ‘mirror real-world social activities.’ The chat environments include activities like a game room, a maze, or even a virtual art gallery. Invitations can be sent out through SMS, Slack, and other messaging apps.
AltSpace VR isn’t exclusive to Gear VR. It’s been launched on both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, increasing the user base many times over and making it easy to find others to chat with. The app can also be used from a PC, but doing so takes away the motion tracking that comes with a VR headset and makes the experience feel similar to setting up a chat in Second Life.
The Night Cafe
Fans of Post-Impressionism art, specifically that of Vincent Van Gogh, will love The Night Cafe. This application is a tribute to the late painter of Provence. It places users into a virtual environment filled with Van Gogh’s art. Users can view the famous sunflowers from different angles and walk around the chair he painted. The entire environment is stylized in the same way as his art.
The app takes users into the mind of one of the greatest painters in history. It’s worth checking out for that reason alone, but the beautiful environments it creates are impossible to ignore.
Price: subscription required
Netflix is awesome on its own. Pair it with VR, and the app creates a virtual living room for you to Netflix and chill in. There’s just one problem: the highest resolution it can attain is 720p. Despite this, using the app is a totally different experience.
The virtual living room is a nice touch, and despite the lower resolution, subtitles are clear and colors are accurately reproduced. While it may not be a perfect replacement for a big-screen TV, it’s a nice alternative if someone else is using your TV and you just want to kick back and binge watch Orange is the New Black.
Price: subscription required
The Hulu app for the Gear VR is a lot like the Netflix app, in that it plunks the user into a virtual living room, movie theater, or beach and displays the content on a screen inside the environment. One big difference from Netflix is that in addition to the same library you’d find in any other Hulu app, you also have access to a small (but growing) selection of 360-degree VR-optimized content. Keep in mind, if you don’t have a subscription already, you’ll need to sign up for one — as the free version of Hulu doesn’t work with the app.
The resolution can be a bit grainy at times, but the virtual screen is larger than a real one would be, which makes extended viewing sessions even more fun. As newer iterations of the headset are released, resolution will improve until watching Hulu in VR beats Hulu in reality.
Titans of Space
Titans of Space lets users live out a common fantasy: piloting a spacecraft through the darkest regions of space. It’s an educational app designed to teach users about the universe. It’s guided, but users can look around the cockpit and through the viewports at the space beyond. When something interesting comes into view, users can select it to learn more.
While it’s not a totally realistic view of space, Titans of Space is an immersive experience that many people, especially young children, will enjoy.
That’s just a few of the experiences we thought were worth highlighting for the Gear VR, though there’s certainly plenty of other great apps and experiences to be had. What are you favorites? Any we missed? Let us know about them down in the comments.