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Cool idea: Bring your roadtrip vacay into the 21st century with VR

Google cardboard and the virtual reality landscape that comes with continues to get more refined and user-friendly and it couldn’t happen at a better time.

Kid using VR googles representing parenting in a digital world.

As American as apple pie

When I was kid and we were trapped in a car going somewhere I don’t know what I did to pass the time. Probably just stare out the window and keep my mouth shut (that’s what happens when you’re the youngest of five kids) but I do fondly recall at least once when I got my hands on one of my brother’s ViewMaster which for awhile was all the rage. The ViewMaster was a cheap stereoscopic viewfinder that had a circular slide with enough 3D “movies” to keep you occupied for awhile. The content was usually based on comic books and travel documentaries but TV shows started to pop up over time as well.


What’s old is [kinda] new again

With that in mind I couldn’t help but smile when I started hearing about VR headsets and how they are catching on with kids. It seems like a logical extension of the ViewMaster but obviously a lot more high-tech and with a much higher price tag.

The principal is the same though: Google cardboard and the entire virtual reality landscape that comes with it will continue to get more and more refined and more user-friendly for kids (and adults) and before you know it we’ll have another interactive tool that keeps us occupied and amused and busy (especially when the kids are in the car and you’re going to visit Grandma who lives a couple hundred miles away).

It’s all good and I say it’s about time.

Affordable fun

I have a few options for headsets I’d recommend (but for the record, there are literally a ton of options out there so your own mileage may vary):

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  1. Least expensive: Google Cardboard – We’re talking basic fun in a box here. Get it, fold it and look inside to enter the world of Cardboard. It’s that simple and really, really affordable. Once you have it, you can explore a variety of apps that unfold all around you. And with plenty of viewer types available, you’re sure to find one that fits you just right.
  2. Mid-range: Samsung Gear VR – True 360° virtual reality will transport you to new worlds in a way you never imagined. Look up. Look down. Look around. It’s all yours to explore. Where will you go first?
  3. Standard: Oculus – A serious step up from the cardboard model. The Oculus Rift or Gear VR radically redefines whatever perception you had of digital entertainment. It’s not so much the breadth of games you can enjoy; it’s the ability to really get deep inside the 3D world. I’m thinking the kids will not want to get out of the car with this one.
  1. Luxury: Playstation VR – Don’t let that hefty price tag scare you. This is for those of you who want to have it all. Just plug and play. Created with gamers in mind, PlayStation delivers a new world of unexpected gaming experiences through PlayStation VR. Seamless visuals keep you connected to a virtual world. Makes reality seem so…boring.


More games and movies than you know what to do with

Trying to find a “few” VR games or movies that already exist and will make for a kickass summer is an understatement. Contrary to what some naysayers want you to think there is a significant amount of content out there. Here are a few that jumped out at me (Get it? That’s a VR joke)! And go to Wearable for an in-depth article on even more games, demos, and apps.

Dead Secret – A mystery thriller in which you get to play detective/reporter as you investigate a suspicious death of Harris Bullard, with four main suspects. It’s very good at keeping things tense with spooky sound effects, disturbing clues to discover and head scratching puzzles to solve. Not one if you’ll get impatient reading notes, documents, blackmail letters and maps but for everyone else, well worth the money. Dead Secret is also coming to PlayStation VR.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes – KTaNE is an example of a game that’s designed for a bunch of you to play. Only one person needs to wear the Gear VR and the rest give the headset wearer instructions (via pages and pages of a printed manual) to defuse the bomb they’re trapped in a room with. Also on Steam but comes into its own in VR.

Land’s End – Ustwo’s first VR game is pretty damn mesmerizing and that’s no surprise. It’s a slow, relaxing puzzle game over five chapters (for now), which makes lovely use of the Gear VR’s head tracking as controls. Serene sunsets, blocky mountains and a range of easy to head scratching – but always mysterious – puzzles. It’s best played while standing or on a swivel chair.

Gunjack – It’s a great little arcade space shooter with big attention to detail, you get a body to look down at in your fixed cock-pit and there’s cracks in the glass as you get hit by enemies.

Oculus Arcade – This is another virtual environment in which you do things in 2D but hey, it’s a virtual arcade so shut up. Play Pac-Man, Sonic, Galaga and more in three arcade rooms. Everything is free for a bit but you have to pay to unlock unlimited play.

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Dreadhalls – First person is where VR really comes into its own and the Gear VR is no exception. The journey through creepy dungeons in Dreadhalls, picking locks, opening doors, keeping your lamp going and checking behind you is damn scary especially considering how long it makes you wait to get attacked. Then you run away, heart genuinely pumping. Super terrifying. Also being developed for the superior Oculus Rift.

DarkNet – An arcade-style, strategy hacking game with lovely visuals and a stern voice giving you instructions, Darknet sees you spread viruses through a network of nodes, banking the Bitcoins and causing carefully constructed mayhem.

Only the beginning

Like all technology that has been labeled as the Next Best Thing, VR headsets will surely become more and more user-friendly and more affordable while at the same time the amount of content will no doubt become staggering.

If we could any closer to the action we’d be inside it. I mean “really” inside it. I’m sure that’s coming sooner than we expect!


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Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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