6 mobile VR apps that are mind-blowingly innovative
Did you know you could turn film-quality scenes into virtual reality now? Yes, thanks to Google’s new technology called Seurat. It was named after the French painter and works by breaking down complex 3D scenes, allowing them to be rendered on today’s smartphones. According to both Engadget and The Verge, the technology is “surprisingly great”. This interesting breakthrough has made us wonder about the advantages of mobile VR apps, as well as the heading the industry is taking. We wanted to find out what new opportunities VR is going to give to mobile app pros in 2017 and beyond, and how the app ecosystem is evolving.
We scoured the web, looking for the best mobile VR apps in April 2017, as we feel real life examples are the best way to show how the industry is evolving. So let’s take a look at the apps propelling the industry, the heading that industry is taking, and the opportunities app pros everywhere can draw from it:
Mobile VR apps that propel the industry forward
The sheer size of YouTube has made it the logical winner of the category. It now has the ability to turn 360-degree videos into VR ones with a single tap. For those with a Daydream-compatible device, you should also consider checking out the dedicated YouTube VR app. Here is what it offers:
- End-to-end VR experience,
- Viewing 360-degree videos as VR,
- Virtual cinema
The only app that comes close to YouTube in terms of entertainment is Netflix, as it offers similar features. However, Netflix is a Daydream-only app, and offers only Netflix content. That’s why we see YouTube as a better choice overall for variety.
Panoramic photos are great as they allow for a full 360-degree view of a place. But after all, these images are still projected onto a poor, 2D screen which requires (both) hands if you want to see everything. Google’s Cardboard Camera app comes up with a brilliant solution — a stereoscopic panorama, accompanied by audio. That way, you can revisit, in VR, the places where you took the 360-degree photos, and also record sound in case you’re sharing the image and want to explain to others what they’re looking at.
Gaming: Chair in a Room | Android
Despite gaming being the primary driver of virtual reality as a technology, gaming hasn’t really given us anything truly spectacular, yet. There are great games out there, but they’re mostly roller coasters or horror games. The genre of space shooters is slowly emerging, as well. Horror games seem like an obvious first choice for developers, and the sheer amount of these games on the app stores tells us how young VR as an industry really is. Yet, one game in particular stands out, and that’s Chair in a Room. It is a crossover between an escape-the-room puzzle and a horror, enriched through virtual reality.
We gave it a try and were genuinely scared and amazed at the same time. Graphics are solid (for a mobile device), and the controls are simple. And it’s scary. Like, Slenderman scary.
Yes, we did mention that art and education aren’t really that strong yet in the VR world. Google’s Art & Culture is the perfect exception to the rule. This app shows the true potential of VR for education purposes, as it offers exhibitions of more than 1,200 museums and galleries in 70 different countries around the world.
Schools in third world countries, for example, who can’t afford a trip to the Louvre, might consider virtually sending their students for a tour across the fabled museum. The possibilities are endless.
The amazing yet spooky communications app that every app pro should definitely check out is vTime, or as it calls itself — the VR Sociable Network. It is like the Habbo hotel for the mobile generation. It has a couple of amazing features that really go to show where the future of mobile VR communication is heading:
- Full 3D audio — This allows users to get a spookily realistic sense of presence
- Gestures — Avatars aren’t these semi-static representations of humans. They come with animated gestures that greatly add to the app’s realism
- Image sharing — Entertainment apps like YouTube or Netflix allow users to enter a virtual cinema and watch a movie or a YouTube clip. vTime offers the same, only allows users to upload images and view them directly with their friends and family
- 360 Gallery — This feature allows users to chat inside photographs created by the users themselves.
If you want an example of what VR can do besides going to Mars, riding down a rollercoaster or running away from virtual zombies, your best bet is Tilt Brush. This app takes painting to a whole new level, allowing users to paint (or sculpt?) in three dimensions. They can even paint with “impossible brushes”, like one made of fire. This is one of the most popular and most innovative mobile VR apps currently on the market. Tilt Brush is poised to revolutionize how people view immersive artwork.
The state of the Virtual Reality industry
VR has lost the exclusivity element, and that’s a good thing. Back in the day, Oculus Rift was the only VR headset in development, and an expensive one at that. It was quickly followed by HTC’s Vive, another expensive toy. These babies go for $600 and more, without shipping. Now, we have Samsung’s Gear VR which sells for roughly $130 and is compatible with the majority of today’s smartphones. Google’s Daydream is $79, and Cardboard, its budget-friendly VR headset, goes for how much, $20? The point is — everyone can get a taste of the new technology, and by that, we mean schools, the media, public organizations, large enterprises. It gives mobile VR app pros a much larger playground.
The number of VR apps is skyrocketing. Where there’s smoke — there’s fire. A constantly increasing number of VR apps means consumers are responding well to the new technology. Google recently announced that there are now more than 150 apps for Daydream alone.
Yet, VR is still mostly entertainment. Many people will hate this fact and refuse to accept it, but mobile VR apps are still focused on entertainment. There has been a lot of talk about virtual reality technology being used for education, architecture or art, but the biggest number of apps, and the best among those apps, still come from the entertainment industry. Sorry, professor. Although, for app pros, this can be an opportunity, so it’s all just a matter of perspective.
The technology is still far from being smartphone-level of mainstream. It is a promising platform. Zuckerberg sees it as ‘the next computing platform’. Google announced a new VR headset — WorldSense. Sony screamed ‘YOLO’ and released PlayStation VR, and now it’s paying off. But it’s still fairly niche, and it might take a couple more years before we consider it mainstream. So it is still not too late for app pros to tap into the industry and later be called an early adopter.
While we’re still away from virtual reality as mainstream technology, we are slowly getting there. Entertainment and gaming are propelling the industry forward, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for app pros to tap into virtual reality with great creativity, education, communication or business apps. The apps listed in this article can give you an idea on where the industry is heading, and offer inspiration on how it can be enriched.
(This article was originally published on Product Mavens.)