VR

Virtual reality (VR) describes an immersive, 3D environment. Once just a staple of science fiction, it’s poised to rock your world within the next year or so.

Consider a few examples from just the past few months: Australian airline Qantas is testing mobile Samsung VR headsets in first class on some flights and in some airport lounges. Universal Studios promoted the release of the horror film ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ with a VR experience, driving a truck cross-country to let fans wear VR goggles. The Dallas Cowboys signed a deal with StriVR labs to train its quarterbacks using VR headsets. This is gonna be big: a 2015 report from Digi-Capital predicted that Augmented and Virtual Reality combined will hit $150 billion in revenue by 2020.

But what does this really mean for you, if you don’t fly Qantas, or happen to be a Dallas Cowboys quarterback or horror movie fan? Well, we’re glad you asked, because we’ve compiled a list of what’s here and nearly here in VR experiences for the Average Joe.

VR Theme Parks
Two major theme park efforts are underway, one starting in Utah and one in China. L.I.V.E Centre (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience) developed by Landmark will open in China by 2018. Landmark’s ambition is 20-30 L.I.V.E. Centres around the world, with each center expected to attract 3 to 5 million people a year.

Coming even sooner though is a Virtual Reality Center in Salt Lake City, Utah from VR company “The Void,” set to open in early 2016. This center will allow groups of up to 10 people to compete in VR games within seven 60-by-60 foot gaming pods, wearing custom-built VR gear.

Headsets
Also on the way early next year is the much-anticipated Oculus VR. Facebook famously bought this leading VR headset maker for $2 billion and this may well prove to have been one of the great bargains of our time. Already Oculus has sold 150,000 goggles as test units for content developers. The closest competitor is Project Morpheus from Sony that connects to PlayStation 4 and will also be out in 2016.

If 2016 is just too far away, there already are low-cost headsets on the market which will hold your smartphone in front of your eyes, and provide a VR experience. The most famous of the bunch is Google’s Cardboard, which boils down to simply a piece of, yes, cardboard combined with Velcro and lenses. You can even build your own using Google’s instructions with materials from your local hardware store.

But the winner for pure nostalgia alone? Mattel is bringing back the venerable View-Master by the end of the year, revamping the classic toy to provide VR. Simply slide your Android or iOS phone into the Viewmaster, download a Google Cardboard app and settle in to enjoy.