Lately it’s become obvious that Apple is very interested in virtual reality. We’ve rounded up all the news about Apple’s virtual reality undertakings here, but in short the company has been buying up smaller firms with expertise the the tech for years. It’s also made some significant hires of virtual and augmented reality researchers. And if that weren’t enough, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said that he doesn’t believe virtual reality is a niche product. "It's really cool," he said. "And it has some interesting applications.”
Then just today AppleInsider obtained a research note by Apple analyst Gene Munster in which he says the company will build virtual and augmented reality support into iOS in as little as two years. What’s more, Munster says, "We believe 10 years from now Generation Z will find reality inefficient," Munster writes. "We believe the concept of an 'inefficient reality' is evident through smartphone use today — the precursor to mixed reality — offering users the ability to find more information as needed.”
Talk about brave new worlds.
VR looks set to be the next BIG thing. And not in a 3D TV way, either. VR has real applications across all fields of computing from gaming to business — the skies really are the limit in this regard. Interested in what the future holds? Check out our piece on The Best VR Headsets Coming in 2016; our Primer on PlayStation VR; and last but not least our HoloLens and Apple VR hubs.
But if you don’t want to wait until 2018 to get your virtual reality game on on your iPhone, there’s good news: you don’t need to. This article explains how to get the virtual reality experience on your iPhone right now. All you need is some inexpensive hardware (besides your expensive iPhone, that is) and then some free or cheap software.
Get virtual reality on your iPhone: The hardware
The good news is thanks to software any smartphone can be turned into a virtual reality viewer. Now don’t expect the quality or experience you’ll get with dedicated VR headsets like Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, but you’ll still get a good feeling for what VR is like.
First you’ll need some hardware, however. The hardware we are talking about comes in the form of VR headsets, essentially goggles you wear over your eyes that you slot your iPhone in to. There are a lot of VR headset goggles out there for the iPhone, but these are some of our favorites:
This is one of the more expensive VR headsets because it has excellent build quality and has advanced features. First the Homido offers three settings for people who wear glasses: far-sighted, near-sighted, and normal vision so you can get the sharpest quality experience no matter what your eyesight is like. The goggles also offer adjustable custom-made VR lenses with 100º fields of view. Finally it features some of the best ergonomics of any VR headset so you don’t get uncomfortable while wearing your iPhone on your face.
The Lakento headset is a smudge cheaper than the Homido. While it doesn’t offer the features for glass wearers the Homido does offer something else: buttons on top of the headset that you can use to control games instead of having to rely on Bluetooth controllers (after all, if your iPhone is strapped to your face, you can’t control games via the touch screen). Lakento also makes some VR games to go along with its headset, we’ll mention one below.
By for the cheapest goggles on this list, the Archos VR Glasses can be yours for just a tenner. No, you don’t get advanced lens support or Bluetooth controls built in, but if you just want a reasonably comfortable pair of goggles so you can start to explore the world of VR, things don’t get better than Archos' VR Glasses.
Get virtual reality on your iPhone: The software
One you have a headset to strap your iPhone to your face, all you need is software. The software comes in the form of iOS apps and games. There are more and more VR apps all the time. Below are a list of some of the ones we think shows off the technology on the iPhone the best. All are free to download.
Made by Lakento, this app sucked us in with its description…not to mention graphics. “You begin your dive near the coral reef atoll of Nuru-Haua heading towards the main island of the atoll. You soon become aware that the area is shark infested... Will your natural diving skills be enough to keep you alive in your dive amongst the squalus, and make it across the reef? Will there be other dangers you’re not expecting…?”
The New York Times actually has its own VR app. It is using VR footage to enhance its stories. With NYT VR “The New York Times puts you at the center of the stories that only we can tell: incredible stories reported by award-winning journalists, all told in an immersive, 360-degree video experience. The limits of our storytelling capabilities now stretch further than we ever before imagined, and we are excited to experiment with this new form of journalism.”
Sisters bills itself as “A Virtual Reality Ghost Story”. I know, I know: you’re a tough guy. Horror movies don’t scare you. We think this virtual reality horror will make you change your tune. In the game you’re alone in a haunted mansion during a storm. Or are you?
Yep, YouTube. The video sharing site now allows people to upload videos that are watchable on VR devices. Download the normal free YouTube app and then enter #360video and tap the VR icon on the video, place your iPhone in your VR headset and then watch the video just inches from your face.