We are still together during confinement: this is how you find yourself online in virtual reality | technology

Now that the confinement seems to lengthen even more, we miss social outings more and more. An excellent time to immerse yourself in virtual reality, because with VR glasses you can still meet, without the risk of corona infection.

The virtual world is an ideal place to meet. Because you’re looking through a world with your own eyes in virtual reality (VR), it feels like you’re in a room with someone else. An online meeting feels as intimate as in real life and, with the right apps, you can, for example, sit together on a virtual couch to watch a movie or play a board game.

For a small amount you can already test carefully beforehand. That is, if you have a reasonable phone in your pocket. For a few bucks, you have a VR headset that you slide your smartphone into. There are even cardboard construction boards, like Google Cardboard, that you can use for a few bucks.

Even with these kinds of primitive VR solutions, you can already meet online, for example with the vTime XR app. In a virtual forest or a digital ice field, or even in a fancy skyscraper-top office, you’re in the same room as your friends’ avatars. It takes a little getting used to, because everything is digital and the avatars don’t always look right. But being able to look at each other when talking quickly feels more natural than a video meeting where everyone is looking directly at the camera.



the actual deal

Your phone is a good starting point, but unfortunately it’s too small for the actual VR experience. The headphones aren’t comfortable for long-term use, their battery drains quickly, and your options are limited. But for really good VR you have to spend a lot of money.

Advanced headsets like Valve Index or HTC Vive can easily cost hundreds of dollars, and you need a powerful and expensive PC for that too. You get the best VR available right now, but it’s pretty expensive if you just want to hang out with friends. Sony also has the PS VR on the market for about 300 euros, but you also need at least a PlayStation 4 to connect it.

no wires

There are stand-alone VR glasses on the market now: headsets that work without PCs or other devices. At the moment, the best known is the Oculus Quest 2. The best part is that there are no cables involved, so you don’t need an associated computer or game console. You put the glasses on your head and it works immediately.

It costs about 350 euros, but then you can meet friends in virtual reality in an affordable way. With the Bigscreen app, you can meet in a virtual cinema, where you watch a movie together, or you can plop down on a digital sofa to watch TV series. This virtual meeting place can also be useful for work, with meeting apps like Spatial or Glue. In an office space, you can conjure up a whiteboard or show your colleagues what you’re working on.


Of course, many games are also played in virtual reality. Even if you are not an experienced player, there is plenty to find to relax. In the Rec Room and VRChat apps, you spend some time chatting, but you can also play small games like Frisbee, laser tag, or dodgeball. Since users can create their own games within these apps, the possibilities are endless.

In Bigscreen you can go to the virtual cinema together with friends. © Large screen

Dizzy

If you’re getting into VR for the first time, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Some people get a little nauseous, a kind of dizziness. This motion sickness can arise especially if the image makes an unexpected movement, while your body remains still.

For most people, you can get used to this. The most important thing is not to spend many hours in a row in VR. If you feel a bit uncomfortable or start to feel hot, stop immediately and let your body rest for a while.

And of course the most important advice: watch out for furniture or pets. Most headsets allow you to define an area and display a virtual grid when you almost hit the wall. But if you don’t push a chair aside, you could still trip over it, let alone a cat suddenly walking in front of you.

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