Traveling around the world can be costly but technology seeks to improve our experiences on a daily basis. To combat the problem of expensive travel, you can have the experiences you would have in exotic locations using virtual reality for little to no costs. Some devices such as the Samsung Gear ($99) and Google Cardboard ($8) have the ability to transform any iPhone or Android device into virtual reality devices.
One of the first categories that really shaped VR technology is tourism. For those who love travelling, virtual reality is an amazing way to experience visiting the world’s wonders without actually being there. This is useful because you get to know the feel and sights of a place before spending money to travel there. Another alternative is using VR travel apps in the place of travelling and getting to see specific resorts, cities, museums, hotels and cruise ships vicariously.
Here are some of our favorite apps to use for your first virtual experiences.
If you have dreamed of experiencing a sailboat cruise off the coast of Croatia, YouVisit is specifically designed to give you the most authentic virtual reality tours. It had countless travel destinations added to the featured college campuses, industries, guesthouses and eateries. You can navigate just by looking as there is no need for buttons or controllers, also, the tours include 360-degree videos and interactive panoramic photos.
You can easily find the app for free on iOS, Android and Gear VR.
Google Street View
This app supports and is free on both Android and iOS devices. It can take you to almost anywhere in the world but in order to interact with the app, you cannot use the headset.
There’s also an unofficial version of the StreetView VR app by YoutopiaVR that is free for the Gear VR and pulls data from Google Street View. The navigation interface on the app is superb. To skip ahead on the street that you are on, all you have to do is tap the screen and if you want to view the map, a long tap will do. It is possible to zoom in or out and change your location to wherever you would wish to be in the world. If you use the microphone to say the name of the country you want to visit, it immediately virtually transports you there.
There is a voice enabled functionality for groups if you want to experience these places with friends, as long as they too have a Gear VR.
Discovery Networks have a virtual reality studio that shows almost real extreme experiences such as scuba diving in shark infested wrecks and zip lining through a remote canyon. The app cannot be found on Gear VR. However, You can find some features on Gear VR’s Milk VR and video applications for Hulu VR.
You can get it for free on both Android and iOS.
This app is free on Android, iOS and Gear VR.
In counting some of the best VR studios that have come up in the last few years, you cannot forget Jaunt VR on that list. It has a selection of very high-quality travel VR videos of areas such as Jerusalem, Nepal, Syria and Machu Picchu. Jaunt not only travels, but also shows VR films, music, and sports.
Ascape Virtual Travel & Tours
For those looking for inspiration on where to travel, Ascape is made for you. With more than 100 simulated hours of breathtaking destinations all around the world, Ascape has resorts, countries and possible experiences you can have while visiting each destination.
You can navigate by touching the screen, which means you need to be prepared to spend more time on your phone than you actually do.
Ascape also gives opportunities to virtual auteurs to make money off their own videos by becoming producers. You can get the app for free on iOS and Android.
Samsung Milk VR
It is hard to believe that this app started as a simple movie app because it has grown to offer incredible video expeditions in a number of destinations such as New York’s Times Square, Italy and Chicago. The only limitation with the app is that it only works with the Gear VR headset.
The standard version for Android does not support viewers on Google Cardboard. All it shows is a simple video that allows you to view different directions by turning your phone or swiping the screen to the direction you want to see. You can download the app on Android and Gear VR for free.
Android phones have the ability to play YouTube videos in immersive virtual reality. All you need to do is search for the destination you are looking to experience and add “360” or “vr” or use a filter for “360 videos”. On the bottom right you will either see a cardboard sign or the three dots that are usually on the top right. Unlike normal videos that are watched on huge secluded movie screens, videos in 360-degrees are watched in immersive virtual reality. When using Gear VR, the trick is to use the Samsung Internet browser then surf using the YouTube site.
The app is free on Android but there is no iOS support at the moment.
This app combines crisp 360 panoramic images placed in a loop to create the illusion that a moment is frozen in time. Videos in Orbulus include extraordinary experiences such as walking on Mars and gorgeous Earthly sights such as fireworks on the Hong Kong Harbor during New Year’s and sometimes even the breathtaking Northern Lights. You can navigate by looking as there is no need for buttons or controllers.
Download the app for free on both your Android and iOS devices.
Sites in VR
Here, you can find panoramic images of various landmarks across the world. Photos from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Belgium, Morocco, Yemen, Holland, Turkey, Kuwait, France and Macedonia. Even though the photos are not very interactive, the app has a user-friendly interface. You can navigate by looking without the need to use buttons or controllers.
The app is free on both Android and iOS.
You can experience photos on Flickr in virtual reality on your Gear VR headset. It is however not yet available for Android and iOS but it is free on Gear VR.
Single destination apps
To make their contribution to the virtual reality world, a lot of developers are occupied with releasing virtual reality experiences for specific destinations. You can get to experience Tokyo, Cyprus, Paris and even London. If you have a dream destination, like the Caribbean or the Big Apple, a trip on these specific VR apps would be to your liking. You can search for your destination followed by the keyword “VR” in your app store. More destinations that you can look up include the following:
➔ United Arab Emirates
➔ Neon Museum in Las Vegas, NV
➔ Toumanian Museum in Armenia
➔ Liege Cathedral in Belgium
➔ Museo Maya de America
Android users can use these apps for free.