How to Travel without Leaving Home: Virtual Reality (VR)

Being stuck in Covid-19 Lockdown has been driving me CRAZY! I miss travelling so much! So I decided to think about ways I could travel without leaving home!


First on the list VR! For those of you who prefer to watch (and laugh at) my first experience of VR - I have a hella entertaining video over at YouTube! CLICK HERE to see my 65 year-old Mum give it a whirl!

Virtual Reality headsets can allow us to visit destinations all over world. We can ride a roller-coaster from our couch, go SCUBA Diving from our sofa, or even take a Virtual Space Walk!! I have been to Japan and Norway this week! What a wonder, to gaze at the Northern Lights! An amazing experience! I was in VR the entire time! Then there was that time I went diving with Great White Sharks OUTSIDE OF THE CAGE!! Amazing and scary at the same time - and all from the war dry safety of my front room!


I treated myself to an Oculus Quest 2 64GB. There are a range of VR headsets on the market - and I'd advise doing little research on which set to invest in.

Take a look at the following considerations:


1) Is there a specific game or app you want to play?

Some games only run on a particular type of headset. For example, there are many PC-Powered VR Games that only run on PC Connected VR Sets, like Oculus Rift . However, please bare in mind that the Rift has to be cabled to a PC (and a high-end PC at that!!) via a cable. That can limit your range to roam.


2) If you want to use VR in tandem with a console - there's not much choice to worry about - you'll be on the PlayStation VR - (PSVR)

3) If you are going for a standalone setup, how much do you want it to do? There are some astoundingly cheap smartphone-based VR sets - but the the support and range of content is vastly limited with these - I'd suggest going the extra money-mile for the wealth of features, capability and content that it brings. Where you CAN save some cash is going for a smaller storage memory size. There's about £100 difference between the 64gb and 256gb. The apps and games ARE chunky, but you can still fit about 40 games on the 64gb, deleting and re-loading files as you wish.

Getting Set up:


Technophobes fear not! The Oculus Quest 2 is so easy to use it's insane! There's barely any moving parts to mess about with (or mess up!) Let's have a look around the set...

  1. Power Button - Long Press to power on. Long Press to power off. SIMPLES!

  2. Power Status Light - you don't have to do anything with this.

  3. Head Straps - Velcro across the top to adjust. Pull toggles round the back to adjust.

  4. Volume Up / Down Button on the under carriage, near your right cheek when worn.

  5. Power / Data cable Port on the left side.

  6. Two Controller Hand-pieces - One For the Left Hand, one for the Right. Hold these with the Index (pointing) Finger wrapped round the Front-Facing Trigger Button, and the Side Trigger button on the INSIDE of your two hands, leaving your Thumb naturally resting on the Top Control Panel.


Inside the headset viewer, you'll see two eye-pieces. These can be 'clicked' left or right, through three different positions (with varying distance between the two eyepieces). Push on eye-piece, and the other will move naturally in tandem. Try each of the three different positions, and see which gives you the clearest view.


To set up the Oculus, download the FREE Oculus App either from the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store. You also need to have a Facebook Account. Using the app on your phone, follow the simple steps to sign in with your Facebook account, set up a VR profile, adjust any privacy settings as you wish, add a PIN and any payment details for buying games and apps. Next the app may ask you to select the model of headset you are using. (Make sure your phone's Bluetooth is turned on) Tap the model you have, tap 'PAIR' on the next screen, and the app and headset will either pair automatically, or the app will ask you to enter a pairing code (which you should see displayed in the VR headset's view). YOU ARE DONE! Easy, right?!

Using Controllers...


Go on... pop it on! Let's get going. You should see two floating dots, each with a ghost tail, a little like a laser. There's one coming from each hand controller. Move the hand controllers around (by which I mean move your hands/arms around) until the dots are over the item or button you want to select. Pull the Front-Facing Trigger Button (under your index finger) to select the item. To scroll through a list or row, hover your dot over an item in the list or row. Squeeze the Front-Facing Trigger Button and HOLD IT, while moving your hand side to side or up and down (depending on whether its a list or a row that you are moving) and then left go to 'drop' or 'let go' of whatever you're dragging and scrolling. On the Top Control Panel, used by the Thumb, there is a button decorated with the Oculus Logo. Press this button at any time to bring up your HOME MENU.


With these three gestures alone, you can now pretty much navigate and perform any task you want! For more advanced gestures, CLICK HERE .

...or your hands!


You can actually use the Oculus Quest 2 WITHOUT the hand controllers, for a more natural feeling experience! Put your hand controllers down somewhere safe. After a couple of seconds, you should see a pair of virtual hands appear in your VR view. They track and move as your actual hands do! You'll notice a little blue 'tear drop' pointing cursor too. As before, more your hands to hover the cursor over an item you wish to 'tap' or select. This time round, instead of clicking the trigger, you simply tap or 'pinch' your Index Finger and Thumb together.


To drag or scroll, hover over an item, pinch and HOLD the Index Finger and Thumb together, while moving your hand left and right, or up and down as required. Release the pinch to let go of the item you are dragging. To return to the HOME MENU with your hands, simply turn your hand over so the palm is facing up, and 'pinch' the Index Finger and Thumb together.


The Guardian boundary


Each time you use the Oculus Quest 2, it will ask you to either: 1. Confirm a Stationary Boundary - which means you're not moving around and enjoying the VR experience in a seated position.

2. Set a Guardian Boundary - so the headset can make sure you don't bump into things while you move around in games.


The Stationary Boundary is as simple as sitting your butt down and confirming with one button press.


Setting the Guardian Boundary for moving interactions is really not much harder. The headset VR view illustrates what to do.

  1. Bend down and push your hand against the floor to help it set the floor height.

  2. Squeeze the Front-Facing Trigger and HOLD the squeeze, while you turn around, drawing a line with your hand controller. The line represents the boundary that you want to stay inside of, for safety while playing. You should be stood in the middle of your loop, turning on the spot in the centre. Keep going until you close the loop.


GAMES, APPS, VIDEOS AND MORE...


You'll find that the Oculus Store behaves much like any streaming TV service menu, or App Store. There are different categories and genres, and you can use a search function. Tap or Pinch on any item for more information, and Tap or Pinch the buttons that follow to download. You can download direct to the headset using wifi. No tiresome cabling with computers or other devices! There are also a bunch of great features to explore at your leisure. Voice control and dictation, VR Calling with Friends, Steaming or Live-Casting your VR experience, Recording your view, and enjoying your other media (photos and videos).



Final Thoughts...


It's been a really long time since I was so impressed with a piece of technology. The experiences were much more immersive and realistic feeling than I had expected, yet even with a sense of movement, it didn't feel any motion sickness. I'd highly recommend VR and a great alternative to travel when you can't leave home! I also found out that there are a ton of other uses for Virtual Reality, that raised my opinion of what I had previously thought was only a consumer entertainment gadget. Turns out VR is now being used to help the armed forces train, doctors to practice surgery, and athlete to improve their sports performance. Better still, (always under professional guidance, it should be noted) VR can be used to treat mental health issues such as phobias and even PTSD. Stand up and take a bow, VR - I think you just hit your stride!!


I hope I've convinced you to give it a go - even if it's just taking a little ride on your grandkids headset! Let me know if you have a VR set and what you like to do most with yours!

Where would you travel to virtually? What would you do?

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