Complete guide to VR: Mobile VR

If you thought that the only way to experience VR was via a premium headset, you’d be wrong. Mobile VR is also up and coming in 2016, providing virtual reality on a budget by utilising your smartphone display and internals. Google Cardboard is a great example of this, as Google provides users with a ‘headset’ made from cardboard which acts as a holder for your smartphone. Simply open one of the many VR apps available on either Google Play or the App Store, slot your smartphone into the headset and get ready to experience VR on a budget.

Of course, using a smartphone as a display and a computer won’t provide the same level of VR as is produced by a £1000+ PC or a £300 console, but it provides users with some idea of what to expect from VR without forking out for an expensive headset. And if Google Cardboard isn’t your style, there are other companies manufacturing slightly more premium Mobile VR headsets.

Take Homido VR for example - The Homido VR headset is designed with comfort in mind, featuring soft padding to stop your skin becoming irritated when wearing the VR headset, while also doubling up as a comfortable way to combat light leakage. It also boasts a 100-degree field of view thanks to its specially designed lenses, which should help provide a more immersive VR experience. As well as this, it offers controls that let you adjust the distance between the lenses, as everybody has a slightly different facial shape.

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/S7/S7 Edge users can also make use of the Samsung Gear VR headset, which the company shipped along with pre-orders of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone earlier this year. The Gear VR headset is slightly different to the Google Cardboard and Homido VR headsets as it works specifically with Galaxy devices, and uses Oculus technology to provide users with a high-end VR experience on a budget. Of course, it still won’t match what the Oculus Rift will be able to do on a PC, but instead provides users with a premium mobile VR experience.

The latest addition to the mobile VR family is the introduction of Google Daydream, a VR platform created by Google. The company created a series of guidelines for smartphone (and VR viewer) manufacturers to follow when designing Daydream-enabled devices, allowing for a unified look and feel.

Unlike Cardboard, Daydream is a little more high-end, with Google’s own Daydream viewers costing users £69 – and that’s without the required phone. At the time of writing, the only phones that support Daydream are Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL, although Google teases that many more Daydream-enabled smartphones are on the way. The experience is more premium, the platform boasts some exclusive apps and games, and there’s even an optional motion controller for more interactivity. If you’re not wowed by the likes of Google Cardboard but can’t afford an Oculus Rift, this is a decent middle-ground - those interested can read our Google Daydream viewer review.

Read next: Gear VR vs Oculus Rift

Complete guide to VR: Best VR games and experiences

Developers around the world are producing virtual reality content for both the PC and PS4, which should provide users with a multitude of games and experiences once they get their headsets. In fact, there is a range of VR-enabled PC games already available and headsets have only been on-sale for a matter of months.

It’s worth noting that games and experiences are two different entities when it comes to virtual reality – while games provide users with something similar to the traditional game setup, an experience is slightly different. Experiences are all about just that, the experience. With this being said, experiences like ‘The Blu’ transport you to a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean with fish swimming overhead, and Everest (obviously) provides the experience of climbing ‘Mount Everest’.

It’s also worth mentioning that both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive come with free games to get you started. The Oculus Rift comes with a free copy of “Lucky’s Tale” while the HTC Vive has a slightly better offering, bundling in not only The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, but Zombie Training Simulator too – although the offering changes every now and again. The PlayStation VR headset doesn’t come with any full games, but instead features a demo disc showcasing some of the best VR games and experiences available for Sony’s platform.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, we’ve created a number of articles highlighting some of the best games available for each platform. Browse through each, and see which (if any) appeal to you most. The range of content available should play a big part in your VR headset buying decision, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  

Read next: Best VR accessories for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR

Complete guide to VR: Nvidia GeForce Now for PC and Mac

While up until now you've had to have a high-end gaming PC to power the likes of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the latest announcement from Nvidia may change that. Announced during the Las Vegas-based Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2017), GeForce Now looks to revolutionise gaming for both PC and Mac-based gamers. At its most simple level, Nvidia is aiming to deliver a "high-performance Nvidia Pascal gaming PC from the cloud to millions of PC and Mac computers" which should enable high-end gaming on otherwise fairly low-end PCs and, of course, Macs. 

What does this have to do with VR? Well, Nvidia has said that the service is compatible with the likes of Steam, GOG, Origin and others, and it specifically mentions VR support in its introduction video. This means that, in theory, users might not need a high-end gaming PC to power the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift if they opt to use Nvidia's cloud-based GeForce Now service, opening the world of VR to a much larger audience.

We've reached out to Nvidia for clarification, and will update this section when we know more. In terms of release, the service is said to launch in March 2017 in the US, with a wider launch coming at some point in Spring 2017.  

Complete guide to VR: Best mobile VR apps

So, what are some of the best mobile VR apps available right now for iOS and Android? Of course, we’d better give Google Cardboard a mention (available for iOS and Android) as it’s a great starting point for those wanting to experience virtual reality. The Google Cardboard app features guided tours of places around the world – Versailles is a particularly popular destination – while also doubling up as a VR video player and photo viewer. It doesn’t do much else, but gives you a good idea of what VR can do and for a free app, you can’t really complain.

Fulldive VR is another free VR app, but this time it’s for Android devices only. It’s a pretty handy app to have as it acts as a directory of VR content available throughout the web in one place. It displays 3D/360-degree videos from YouTube natively, and includes a VR video player, VR browser, a VR camera and a 360-degree VR photo gallery to view photos. There are a few bugs, but the developers are said to be pretty proactive and these should be ironed out fairly soon.

But what about for our iOS counterparts? While there aren’t as many VR apps available, there are still a few worth noting. Vrse is one – VR is going to be a great medium for storytelling and Vrse is already on the ball. The company produces VR content that is showcased at film festivals, and then puts it on the free VRSE app for those to enjoy at home. The ‘Evolution of Verse’ short film available on the app is a popular choice for VR users, although it’s also worth checking out ‘Clouds Over Sidra’ which documents the life of a 12-year-old girl caught in a Syrian refugee camp.

Want more? Take a look at our choice of the 12 best Google Cardboard apps for VR headsets.

Complete guide to VR: VR Porn

Of course, we wouldn’t be able to get all the way through our guide to virtual reality without mentioning one of its biggest markets – porn. While VR porn has been available in some shape or form for some time, it has been notoriously hard to find and most of the time you’ll have to pay to get your VR-enabled kicks. That was until now anyway, as Pornhub has made free 360-degree VR porn easily accessible in conjunction with established VR porn store BaDoink.

The VR library is available for PC users along with iOS and Android users, although mobile users will have to use a dedicated VR video player app to stream the content. This is due to file format support, as both iOS and Android don’t currently support the file format and thus, won’t play the video. Some of the footage currently on the site isn’t entirely 3D and only offers an 180-degree field of view that allows you to look left, right and forward, but Pornhub claims that it’ll have a lot of full 360-degree VR content up very soon.

The VR site is currently live on Pornhub (obviously NSFW) and to celebrate the launch, Pornhub is giving away 10,000 Google Cardboard-esque mobile VR headsets to users that sign up. Simply find a video you want to watch, download a VR video player (Pornhub suggests FreeVRPlayer for iOS/Android) and tap the link to load up the video – it’s that simple. Early users of the service complain that some of the viewing angles are questionable and make the actress look like she’s 50-foot-tall (although we’re sure some people would love that!) but for a free service, you can’t really complain. Besides, VR porn is still relatively new and may take a while to work out all the bugs with VR content production.

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